Highland News Leader

Highland moves forward on plan to install surveillance cameras throughout the city

Highland police believe a new camera system purchased and installed throughout the city this year will help curb crime.

A group effort between police, communication service, parks and power departments led to the pitch to the city council, which unanimously approved a motion to seek bids for the purchase and installation of digital video equipment.

The current design would have 14 cameras placed at several major entrances and exits to the city, major infrastructure locations and the City Square. Conrad said the cameras at the City Square could help police curb vandalism and other complaints that come from downtown.

Highland Police Chief Chris Conrad said the cameras wouldn’t be used for active surveillance, typically, but mostly used for investigations. He said, in the past, the department has been lucky in identifying individuals and vehicles through businesses that happened to have security cameras on premise.

“There’s a lot of different applications for this,” Conrad said. “We’ve had several cases where being able to identify vehicles and licenses plates has been an important part of our investigation.”

The cameras would be directly connected to the $7 million public safety building the city is set to break ground on this year.

Beyond police use, the cameras also would fulfill a requirement the city must meet by having surveillance at major infrastructure points. Funding for the project will be covered through the electricity budget.

The new cameras also would link up the city’s current surveillance on many public buildings, Director of Technology and Innovation Angela Imming said. She added that the city’s fiber internet will pair well with the new technology and will allow the city to store a large amount of data for a long period of time.

City Councilman Aaron Schwarz said he was concerned with how long the city would keep the data and what it would be used for. He said he wanted to be certain the cameras won’t be used to collect information on data on travelers unconnected to any wrongdoing.

Imming said the system the city was looking at wouldn’t be used for anything other than surveillance.

Conrad added that some systems that include license plate readers are available, but is not what the city is interested in.

“I would call these problem-oriented cameras,” Conrad said. “We’re not getting license plate readers at our borders, but if something happened we could go back and pull them if we needed it.”

Kavahn Mansouri covers government accountability for the Belleville News-Democrat, holding officials and institutions accountable and tracking how taxpayer money is spent.
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