Columbia approves 792 surveillance cameras, funding needed

Published: Apr. 30, 2013 at 8:24 PM EDT|Updated: May. 10, 2013 at 8:53 PM EDT
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Surveillance cameras in Columbia
Surveillance cameras in Columbia
Council discusses cameras Tuesday.
Council discusses cameras Tuesday.

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Columbia city council members on Tuesday approved a plan to purchase and install almost 800 surveillance cameras at intersections and parks across the city.

The dramatic expansion of the city's camera system will only happen if a funding source can be found.

A proposal from Statewide Security places the price tag on such a project at approximately $1.4 million for the first year plus the additional cost of personnel to operate and maintain the system.

The cameras would be installed at 50 intersections and in 24 city parks.

"The best crime is the one that never happens," said Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin," and we've seen significant investment both by the private sector and the public sector particularly in the hospitality sectors and we've seen crime drop rather precipitously across the city."

The city has already utilized cameras that are installed in the Main Street area and in Five Points for several investigations.

"There's different strategies when you look at trying to secure the city with overall crime deterrents," said acting Police Chief Ruben Santiago. "The cameras have been a very big tool when it comes to deterring crime. In a scenario where there is crime that was captured, it's used as evidence."

Santiago said citizens should not worry about "big brother" always watching them.

"These cameras are not designed to catch speeders or to invade anyone's privacy," said Santiago. "The information that the cameras would capture image-wise would be of value when it came to descriptions of vehicles, descriptions of people and really help us paint a picture of what was happening at the time of that situation or that crime."

If council approves a funding source, the city must go through a proper "request for proposal" process before any contract would be signed.

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