Candid camera

The Eau Claire Police Department is requesting eventual funding to install security cameras on Water Street and downtown, the city’s finance director said.

“It’s been identified as a project for 2011 in our five-year plan,” said Rebecca Noland, director of the city’s Finance Department. A $60,000 appropriation for “public space” cameras has been projected for 2011 in the city’s 2010-2014 Capital Improvement Plan, which outlines capital projects in Eau Claire five years into the future.

Wireless video surveillance has become a public safety tool and cameras can reduce fear of public crime, help police and medical assistance, according to the CIP.

The CIP recommends that cameras be deployed downtown and on Water Street.

Students gave mixed reviews to the recommendation. Some said they thought it was a good idea and could help address what they see as a crime problem in the area, while others said they were concerned it was an invasion of privacy.

“I think it would be a good idea,” senior Craig Ferries said, “I know a guy that got beat down (on Water Street) on Homecoming morning, and there was nobody there to really know what was going on.” He added that the person responsible was never found.

However, Ferries doesn’t think privacy is an issue in this case.

“On Water Street, you lose your privacy,” he said.

Student Senator Patrick Bloecher said he thinks the community should engage in more dialogue before it allows for increased surveillance.

“I think their intentions are probably positive, but we need to really kind of be wary of how much surveillance we allow on the public sector like that,” Bloecher said.

Bloecher also said he thinks criminals will find a way around cameras.

“People have criminal activity going on in prison, so they will think of something.”

Most students interviewed said they weren’t sure if the crime rate on Water Street is high enough to justify installing the cameras there. Ferries said he has heard of several people who have been beat up there, but others said they thought the crime rate there was too low to warrant having cameras.

“I guess I just don’t see that much crime taking place besides underage drinking or anything like that,” senior Brittanna Potocnik said. She noted that she could support adding surveillance on Water Street if the city could “show statistics of the crime increasing over the years.”

“As of now, I don’t think we need it,” Potocnik said.

The proposed CIP sets installation of the cameras for 2011 – two years sooner than last year’s 2009-2013 CIP, which appropriated funding to install the devices in 2013.

Noland said that though the project is included in this year’s CIP, there’s no guarantee the cameras will be installed.

“It could be moved back to 2012, it could be moved back to 2015, or it could be approved in 2011,” Noland said.