surveillance cameras

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COLUMBIA - The city council plans to take up the installation of eight security cameras downtown at its May 16 meeting. Voters already approved the cameras in a citywide vote last year.

The city plans to appropriate funds combining $50,000 from the city and $25, 000 from the Community Improvement District (CID) to purchase the eight surveillance cameras for the downtown area.

The money would be used for equipment, installation and maintenance for six months. If the city council approves continuing the security system, the maintenance fee would be about $21,000 every year.

According to a hot spot map of 9-1-1 calls, the city would set up the cameras at four locations: Hitt Street and Broadway, Tenth and Broadway, Tenth and Cherry and Ninth and Cherry.

Lt. Chris Kelley with the Columbia Police Department said the cameras would be mounted on white boxes called "Mod Pods" containing the controlling facilities, and most of the boxes would be on light poles.

Columbia-based ISG Technology, Inc. won the bid and would provide the equipments and maintenance.

Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said the cameras are wireless so that it would be convenient to add extra cameras should the city decide to expand the system.

The cameras would run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but the feeds wouldn't be monitored all the time.

Mark Flakne, president of Keep Columbia Free, was against the ordinance last year. Now, he is concerned about how the city would put up the cameras.

"The ordinance plainly states that the cameras are supposed to be conspicuous." Flakne said. He would recommend marking the cameras.

Romaine said they would consider puting the Police Department logo outside the cameras if it will make the cameras more overt and fit the ordinance better.

Romaine also said he believed the cameras would be effective even if they were conspicuously exposed.

"The problems that we are getting is typically from at 12:30 and one o'clock when the bars empty out. You had people that maybe had too much to drink, and they are not in their right state of the mind. And they start fighting or axvenderlism occur.At that time of night and under that condition, I don't think they really particularly care whether there's a camera." Romaine said.

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