Police Try Again for Security Cameras

The Charlottesville PD’s request for security cameras fizzled out after a majority of council was opposed to them. Now Chief Longo is taking another bite at the apple, having appealed to downtown business owners to turn out at Monday’s city council meeting and support his request for the $300k camera setup. Council started to move on this in July, but it didn’t go anywhere.

As Kate Harmon explains in her Progress article, there are now specifics: the plan is five cameras on the east end of the Downtown Mall; ten on Water 3rd and 4th; and fifteen along the rest of the mall and its side streets. Longo says that even if this request doesn’t pan out, he’s not done trying.

64 thoughts on “Police Try Again for Security Cameras”

  1. On the one hand, I trust Chief Longo to know more about law enforcement than me.

    On the other hand, I can’t see how cameras would possibly do any better at fighting crime than spending the $300K on more (and better-paid) patrol officers.

  2. The idea is that the $300k would be a one-time expense in buying the cameras, supporting hardware and software. It it is used to hire more police officers, it will become a long-term annual expense.

  3. It’s easy to find the argument against cameras – here, here and here to start.

    From a story in London –

    In fact, four out of five of the boroughs with the most cameras have a record of solving crime that is below average.

    “These figures suggest there is no link between a high number of CCTV cameras and a better crime clear-up rate.

    “We have estimated that CCTV cameras have cost the taxpayer in the region of £200million in the last 10 years but it’s not entirely clear if some of that money would not have been better spent on police officers.

    Three questions –

    – Where are the statistical arguments for them?
    – How much crime happens on the mall?
    – If the Downtown businesses want them so badly, why don’t they pay for them?

  4. There’s no way the $300K will be a one-time expense. Hardware & software have a life cycle, which will mean more money in subsequent years. Actually using the cameras will be an additional expense, presumably taken on the margin from detectives & dispatchers. There are seven open positions for community officer. Fill those positions! If more money is needed to hire & retain community officers, ask for that money.

  5. And add to the three questions above
    – Does convenience store cameras aid in determining the events of the robbery/assault/murder ?
    – Does convenience store cameras ever aid in the identification of the perpetrator?

  6. That equipment and software easily have a life cycle of at least 10 years. In ten years, using that $300k for manpower will cost $3M. This is the same reasoning the City is using for shifting the recreation personnel off on the YMCA. There’s also huge savings in thre retirement expenditures.
    If future candidates for the police force would read some of the comments made on local blogs about officers on our local force, I doubt that many, if any, of them will apply.

  7. I think the cameras are a great idea. You have to remember they will capture controversial events like a cop knocking a pregnant girl flat on her butt. Unless the recording magically disappears. Just like some controversial 911 tapes disappeared back in 1997 once a subpoena was issued for them.

  8. That equipment and software easily have a life cycle of at least 10 years. In ten years, using that $300k for manpower will cost $3M.
    Citation, please?

  9. Tune in on Chief Longo’s public request before City Council on Cable Channel 10 at 7 PM Monday night. He has covered the cost benefits in previous presentation to Council.

  10. I mentioned this before when this topic came up, but that price is way off the mark. Retail off the shelf high end (hi res) exterior cameras (30 mentioned) other related hardware (servers, networking, etc.) and software that can be used for this task (incl. redundancies, off site backup, UPS, etc. needed for law enforcement) cost around 60K. About 1/5 what he’s asking for. Some companies do charge his kind of rate, but the systems have advanced enough that they can be had for much less.

    This is not unlike other technologies that get over the hurdle of low volume, cutting edge technology. Think regular every day CD players still selling for $1000 a bit after $100 ones have been introduced to the market. That’s where we are with surveillance technology.

    Of course I seem to be making his case even better if it can be much, much cheeper. But as Jim’s referenced articles mention, cameras don’t stop, prevent, and may not even help prosecute crimes. So what’s the motivation. Not that I’m a cynic, but I’d make sure all the companies he wants to use are on the up and up.

  11. The City pays top dollar. Look at the $17M computer system\website. Perhaps you ought to email Councilors with information from your catalogs.

  12. Oh, but it’s all for your own safety, you know. You want to be safe, don’t you? The GPS chip in your cellphone, the OnStar system in your car – it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, knowing the authorities can find me no matter where I wander. After all, if you’re not doing anything wrong, why do you care if you’re being watched? Goodness sakes, I just wish they’d install toilet cams in all the bathrooms, to keep us safe from perverts! Damn the expense: Bring on the cameras!

  13. The only problem I see with this is the people monitoring these toilet cams could be the perverts. And I am sure a lot of people dropping their pants in Charlottesville to go to the toilet would end up on YouTube as well.

  14. People are being filmed all ther time downtown and they don’t even know it, i.e. webcams, commercials, general photography. It sure sounds like a better $ spend then perhaps sinking another few thousand into a transit system, that already loses millions. JC

  15. Retail off the shelf high end (hi res) exterior cameras (30 mentioned) other related hardware (servers, networking, etc.) and software that can be used for this task (incl. redundancies, off site backup, UPS, etc. needed for law enforcement) cost around 60K. About 1/5 what he’s asking for.

    you volunteering to install it all for free? b/c i’d imagine that’s where the other 4/5 of the requested money is going.

  16. I like Tim Longo. I think he’s done a very good job as Chief of Police. However, he has made his case, requested that something politically charged be implemented and City Council voted not to do it. That should end the matter as far as he is concerned.

    It is inappropriate for a Chief of Police to go about acting as a political lobbyist and using his badge and position of authority as a means of pushing business owners into supporting his political position. I realize that this is probably not how he sees it and that he means well. Nevertheless, it’s inappropriate. The fact of his authority can not be separated from his actions.

    Charlottesville said ‘no’ to the cameras quite recently. This downtown business owner sees no change in circumstances that justify another round of hearings or another vote.

  17. Jackson, the proposal has been significantly altered since initially addressed. In some ways, this is a new proposal, written with an increased attention toward privacy and access concerns. Click on the agenda with supporting documents for the Dec. 3, 2007 meeting, here: http://www.charlottesville.org/index.aspx?page=1791 You need an adobe reader, but the relevant portion (with strike through and underline showing changes to the initial proposal) begin around page 67.

    As a resident of the downtown mall, I welcome any attempts to increase security, particularly on the blocks adjacent to the mall itself. My block on Water Street has seen 2 shooting incidents in just the past six months. I’d venture to say that any resident experiencing the same increase in criminal activity on their own block would be looking for a solution of just this sort. Hiring and training new officers takes time, IF you can find people willing to fill the openings, as Chief Longo points out. This is a more immediate way to address the problem.

    Regardless, I would also like to see police call boxes placed throughout the mall area. Cameras, while helpful as a deterrent and evidentiary aid after the fact, aren’t the same as having a method aimed at quick response. If we don’t have manpower for increased patrol, this would at least provide a dedicated quick link to law enforement.

  18. The only thing about the call boxes is that they send alarm bells to visitors that the area is unsafe, and they are often vandalized or abused by pranksters. I base this on my early-90’s college campus experience, but perhaps someone has better info out there.

  19. you volunteering to install it all for free? b/c i’d imagine that’s where the other 4/5 of the requested money is going.

    $240,000 to attach 30 cameras, pull wire, and set up a couple of computers. Riiiight. And I’ve got a lovely website for you for only one hundred million dollars (said with pinky to mouth).

    Why am I saying all of this, I should be bidding to work with the city on all these projects. I think they could use some lovely holiday flags on lampposts, for, say, $750,000. Yea, that sounds reasonable. Bwahahahaha.

  20. DandyTiger, perhaps you should contract with the City. Gary O’Connell, upon questioning by Kevin Lynch at the City Council meeting on November 19, insists that it is reasonable to spend $250,000 to install an Uninterruptible Power Supply system.

  21. “My block on Water Street has seen 2 shooting incidents in just the past six months. I’d venture to say that any resident experiencing the same increase in criminal activity on their own block would be looking for a solution of just this sort.”

    I certainly felt that way when the house across the street from mine was shot up. But would a camera have helped? Maybe, maybe not. If a criminal knows the cameras are there, then he/she will commit his/her crime out of view. If he/she doesn’t know, then the cameras won’t be much of a deterrent. Read up on how people react to surveillance cameras in, e.g., London. Baseball caps are effective at masking the identity of criminals.

    I wonder why the 2 shootings you refer to took place. Were they even in the camera covered area? Would cameras have displaced the crime a block over?

  22. Wes, I understand what you’re saying. However, I at least doubt that the crime would move another block over. The block of which I speak is the one on which the metered lot is located on Water Street. The lot (and the block on which the lot is located) has been the site of a lot of altercations, luckily with only one leading to a shooting casualty…so far. http://www.c-ville.com/index.php?cat=121304064644348&z_Issue_ID=11431409070565458&ShowArchiveArticle_ID=11431709073886767 When that shooting took place, the emphasis seemed to be on the fact that, “oh, these people knew each other; wasn’t random violence, so no one need worry.” With my front door located right across the street, a stray bullet could easily have turned this private altercation INTO random violence. The lot is a place where tourists and visitors to the mall are funneled on a regular basis. It’s a logical place for would-be criminals to show up, same as a shopping mall parking lot invites such activity. For that reason, I doubt the problems occuring on that site are necessarily transferrable.

    I would much rather see heavy patrol of the lot (and surrounding area), instead of merely ticketing of parking violators and after the fact law enforcement follow-up to reports of violence or possible criminal activity in the area (the only regular police presence I’ve noted). If we simply don’t have the manpower for that, the cameras are at least better than nothing, until such time as additional police are available.

  23. Wes, this was the same block a cop knocked a pregnant Blair Austin on her butt, isn’t it?

  24. That was another block over, from what I can tell, Demopublican. I might be off on that, though. The news items identify Water and 2nd SE as the cross street. That, I believe, is beside the Water Street parking garage.

    Finally found an accounting of the other shooting on the block: http://www.nbc29.com/Global/story.asp?S=6604229&nav=menu496_12_11_7 Only property damage, here, but a poor shot could have led to some rather dire consequences for someone who unluckily got in the way.

  25. Jackson, maybe the cameras on the mall is what Longo wants to be remembered for? He did at one time say he was only going to spend about 7 years in Charlottesville, didn’t he? And that 7 years is up now. Didn’t Rittenhouse have to pack up and move to Augusta County (City Manager refused to let him stay on as chief after age 60?), and Longo took over about 2001?

  26. Why should Longo leave? He has the perfect job. Great benefits. Big salary. Worshipped and adored by all the liberals who will give up all their freedoms for the promise of security and protection.
    I think Longo is a control freak who is too used to having his way with the city manager and city council. When he was hired we were never told the reason he left the Baltimore police department. Something about an agreement between Longo and the new chief that kept his reason for leaving a secret/mystery.
    Cameras are not a good idea……”1984″

  27. I don’t know why he would leave either. I just think I recall he said he would only be staying in Charlottesville for 7 years. And I still want to know why some of the top brass in the chain of command left the police department as soon as Longo showed up. I often wonder if it was voluntary or involuntary. But anyhow, it is quite refreshing to finally see somebody who can bully and push City Council around! He’ll get his silly cameras.

  28. From 29’s website.

    Council eventually compromised and agreed the cameras should be mobile and stand alone, which means they could be placed in various areas of Charlottesville. Council also agreed that there would be no central hub of oversight for the surveillance.

    “I think it is an effective compromise. At the end of the day all we need, all we want is an additional tool to make this community safe, whether it be the actual reduction of crime or reducing the fear of crime,” said Longo.

    Longo now has to find a camera company to do business with. He’ll have a budget of $300,000. The money is taken from the Downtown Mall Capital Improvements Plan.

    He’ll have to go before Council for final approval once a company is selected.

    This is the dumbest thing I’ve heard yet. Stand alone and mobile? What does that mean? A tripod in the middle of the mall or some guy walking around with a camera on his shoulder? What???? No central hub for oversight?? Well, what’s the use if no one’s going to monitor activity?
    Good grief.

  29. jogger, actually I have met one of Longo’s superiors one a trip to Baltimore a few years ago and he did not leave under any cloud. He said he was sorry to see him go, but considered his taking the job here in Charlottesville a career advancement.
    Demopublican, When Rittenhouse became Chief, a number of senior staffers “retired” also. Some people just don’t like change. The same happens in the school system when we frequently change superintendents and principals.
    I suspect, as with the Mall crossing, Council compromised on this issue due to the considerable influence the downtown business group has. Several members of Council are particularly critical of the police department whenever Longo goes before them, so there’s no great love there and O’Connell certainly has not spoken out in meetings in favor of the cameras as he has the big ticket items of a new EMS service and new Fontaine area fire station. I guess Longo will have to become another reitred employee who wins a seat on Council to get support from O’Connell.

  30. Hold on one red hot second, folks. How DARE the council even consider such an action without first spending at least a couple hundred thou on a consultant to study the problem and make a recommendation that they can debate for a few years before commissioning another study to see if conditions have changed since the last study.

  31. Big_Al, I believe a “consultant” was hired some time in early summer. As with the new website, I’m sure that O’Connell paid two vendors (“consultants”) to come to Charlottesville to “study” the layout and give estimates. That’s how the $300k figure was formed. Of course, employees of the “consultant” will be paid to install the system. Notice that the proposition is $300k, take it or leave it. There is so discussion of what features to buy or not to buy, just which ones will be used. Same as the website process.

  32. If Longo didn’t leave under a cloud from Baltimore then why was his personnel file sealed?
    Are these mobile cameras going to be like the little speed box that you see around town every so often reminding us of our speed?

  33. jogger, do you mean “sealed” as by court order? I don’t know of any public employee’s personnel folder that is open for public scrutiny. Even current employers do not have a right to inspect an employee’s file from former employment even after he is hired.

  34. Cville Eye his files at the Baltimore P.D. were sealed and not reviewable even by council before he was appointed chief. Supposedly an agreement he made when he resigned from the Baltimore pd. Then went to work for a “security” firm in NVA and was hired from them to his present position. It’s all public record. Look back at the DP articles around 2001 when he was appointed Chief of Cville pd.

  35. Sealed by whom? The FBI? God? Our City Council has no authority to look at anybody’s employment records, thank God. When Gary O’Connell hired him (not Council), he could not demand his records. He could ask and Longo could have obliged, however, no professional (or anybody else with any sense) will allow a prospective employer to look at his employment record for any reason. What employers rely upon (other than Google now) are references. Even the FBI in getting security clearances can not force employers to provide employee records. Has any of you employers looked at your employment records or just asked for recommendations/comments? I’ve never heard of such a thing.

  36. Confidentiality with departed employee records is standard practice. The policy at the last company I worked at was pretty stark: they would confirm that a person had worked there, but nothing more, not even the date of hire or length of employment. This was private sector.

    That Longo’s records were not available to City Council is neither surprising nor alarming. It is what one would expect.

  37. So how did we get off the camera issue and on to Longo’s employment past?? Employers legally can’t tell anything except the length of employment and pay.

  38. I see Kevin Lynch is trying to derail the purchase by questioning which of the stockpiled slush funds Council will use to fund the project since the cameras are not slated to be on the Mall. Why not use some of the millions in the Strategic fund?

  39. Confidentiality with departed employee records is standard practice? Employers release employee records when they want to, or when it helps to support what they are trying to accomplish. Since we’re suddenly talking about Longos’ records for whatever reason, here’s just one “police” example with a quote from the link:


    “Acting on a recommendation from Police Chief James Prandini, the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners voted unanimously to fire Officer Dick Lalowski… Des Plaines Police Chief James Prandini said Lalowski had been suspended from his duties at least four times for inappropriate conduct.”

    If it’s true Longo’s employment records were sealed and not reviewable, even by council before he was appointed chief, we all have to wonder what’s in those files.

  40. No where does it say that the Board reviewed the officer’s current or past employment files. They acted upon a recommendation by his supervising superior who has legal access to his current employment files, not those of his past employmers. The Board in this case is probably restricted to firing “with cause” and the supervisor’s summary description of his job performance provides that cause.

  41. CVille Eye, if the media report is accurate the Des Plaines police chief publicly released the officer’s past personnel matters/reprimands. That’s my point. I am sure the officer in question didn’t authorize the chief of police to release this information to the public. So basically, they can release personnel matters when it’s in their best interest. So why can’t they release whatever is contained in the files when a legitimate question is asked by a responsible person or media outlet? Makes one wonder, huh? The belief that whatever is contained in personnel files is confidential is pure unadulterated hogwash.

  42. “The belief that whatever is contained in personnel files is confidential is pure unadulterated hogwash.” Three people on this blog have told you that you are incorrect. Have it your way.

  43. That too is my point, CVille Eye. Three people on this blog keep telling me personnel records and their contents are confidential. I just showed one example (of many examples out there) to prove it simply isn’t true. I’m asking for help here – help me understand how or why police departments and police chiefs can release personnel matters when they decide to and chose to do so. And how and why they can deny to release the records when they feel like it.

  44. I’m puzzled why it’s suspicious that Chief Longo’s closed personnel files from his prior employment. My personnel files here at UVa are closed to the public. Is that cause for suspicion? Must we conclude that anybody who values their privacy has something to hide? Or do only public figures give up their right to such fundamental elements of privacy? If the latter, what other records must Chief Longo make public in order to avoid suspicion? His medical records? His education records? Tax filings? Bank statements? ATM receipts?

    If it’s true Longo’s employment records were sealed and not reviewable, even by council before he was appointed chief, we all have to wonder what’s in those files.

    No. No we don’t. I don’t wonder about it in the least. I suspect that you are the only person in town who is doing any such wondering.

  45. To be quite honest Waldo, I hadn’t really been wondering at all. Until it was mentioned here by Jogger. And I only wonder now because they -ARE- allegedly sealed. Then I went out to dinner and forgot all about it. Now I come home and I am reminded to start wondering about it again. :)

  46. Thanks Waldo!

    How this ever ended up from the camera debate to whether Longo “suppressed” his employment record is anyone’s guess. This was, and still is for the most part, a blog with in-depth real discussion of events. Thanks for taking the few trolls to task that wish to ply their personal agendas.

  47. How this ever ended up from the camera debate to whether Longo “suppressed” his employment record -ISN’T- anyone’s best guess. It’s very clear that a person above named Jogger introduced the discussion into this subject.

  48. It happens all the time. Jogger is speculating that the unknown could be bad. But it can be a positive speculation–since Longo has done such a terrific job in Cville, his previous work must be exemplary. Negative speculation is often called a smear. Positive speculation means you’ve drunk too much koolaid. Since there’s no strong argument against the cameras, we question the person who had the idea. Now someone needs to quote an article or person who knows the truth about the shakeup that resulted in Longo leaving the Baltimore PD. It’s not a smear if it’s the truth. Remember what Huja said during the campaign: Council tells staff what to do, staff does not tell Council what to do.

  49. “Council tells staff what to do, staff does not tell Council what to do.” No, technically, Council tells the City Manager what it wants accomplished and the City Manager deploys his staff his way in order to accomplish it. Council does not direct individual staff maembers, although we have had some who stepped across the line and did so, costing the tax payer millions of dollars.
    “Now someone needs to quote an article or person who knows the truth about the shakeup that resulted in Longo leaving the Baltimore PD.” I am interpreting this statement to say, “If someone has some type of proof that Longo left Baltimore under a cloud, then produce the evidence for all to see, otherwise there is no need to “question the person who had the idea.”

  50. OK, as much as I dislike the person, anything that happened in Baltimore is past history and shouldn’t affect the perception we may have of Longo in Charlottesville. Having had dealings and conversations with him in 2005 before he clammed up and circled the wagons, I wouldn’t care if he quit/retired and moved to Augusta County with the former chief of police and they together lived happily ever after. I would change my opinion if he was somehow able to get his rambo rookies and veteran misfits under control.

  51. I doubt Longo “circled the wagons” until after he realized there is no getting across to some people. Demopublican, your hobby seems to bash Longo, Miller, CPD, ACPD, ALL the PDs. YES they err, sometimes badly, but sometimes there is no point in argument..and Longo knows when to cut his losses with those folks and not waste any more “airtime” with them.

    Or could it be you’re a disgruntled past employee? Longo has taken out his fair share of problems since he came on board. Might you have been one of them? You certainly seem to harbor a personal grudge beyond mere dislike of police.

  52. Not a past employee. Sorry. And I hate all crooked lying cops equally. Decent honest cops are OK in my book though.

  53. Demopublican, do you hate all lying firemen, school teachers, City Council members, Department of Neighborhood Services staffers, Planning Commissioners, school administrators, water and sewer authority members, etc., or just police officers?

  54. Yes, show me any public servant who has willfully and knowingly lied to the public, judge or jury, and I will hate them too. I don’t see any of the people you listed in the news week after week for alleged wrongdoing, coverups, and lies.

  55. What do you think the City’s take over of the EMS service this Monday night is? According to its own committee statements in the background material of the agenda: “Disadvantages –
    o Significant expense to improve an ambulance response time that currently meets an appropriate performance standard.” Remember last Spring when Mr. O’Connell, Mr. Taliaferro and Mr. Werner said there were serious problems with the response time of CARS and that the data they had looked at would show it? Add to that the committee’s recommendation that not only the City should go to a fee-based system but also adopt the most expensive option. You seem to be observant, Demopublican. It would be great if you turned your powers of observation away from the police and towards those that are spending $134.7M of your tax dollars and insist that they need to go higher next year. Maybe you could help the pocket books of a lot of people here.

  56. What do I think? Once my taxes are paying for a rescue squad I have no intentions of donating anything to the Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad again.

  57. And, YOU will be paying over $400 for each service call. Mr. O’Connell anticipates that these fees will cover the annual $500k in operating expenses. I would not be surprised if contributions to CARS will greatly decrease which will force them to fee-based rather than community-based funding. It seems that it will be impossible to have a dual funding structure anyway since they both use 911. That’s why so many people feel the City is trying to take over the EMS service and have the volunteers work for the fire department. I doubt the caller will be able to specify which ambulance from which agency he would like to provide the service. Maybe CARS will get its own telephone number. If so, I will continue contributing annually the only thing that is World Class in this City.

  58. Agreed. If they get their own number and I can call them, I will continue to contribute each year. There is NO way to stop anything the city is determined to do. You know that.

  59. Demopublican, you and I can count this year as our last year to contribute. Charlottesville is too small to run competing services. I have a feeling the fire department is in for a rude awakening if it thinks the CARS volunteers are going to flock to their EMS service. There is a striking difference between Mr. Claytor and Mr. Werner and it will probably be too much of a culture shock.

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