Tampa City Council asks if RNC cameras are worth cost and intrusion

12:36 PM, Aug 29, 2013   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- Tampa's City Council is taking a long hard look at the cameras that look nonstop at the people of the city.

The city's 119 closed circuit cameras -- originally set up Downtown for Republican National Convention surveillance -- are still up and running.

The contract to keep them going is up for renewal soon, at a cost of $185,000 a year.

So council members on Thursday questioned whether the cameras are worth the price tag and the government intrusion into people's lives.

"I think we should think about really strict ordinances about how they're used because it's a pretty big responsibility to know that they're out there," City Council member Mary Mulhern said.

Creating a "police state in the park" is what City Council member Frank Reddick said worried him.

Tampa Police say the tools are a huge help handling crowds and tracking criminals.

Officers gave examples of some crimes the system has solved, but didn't have numbers or statistics beyond those individual stories.

"We've had a 23 percent reduction in crime in the downtown area. Now, I'm not going to go on a whim and say it's all because of the cameras," but they were an important part of the effort, said Tampa Police Maj. Mike Baumaister.

Thursday was a discussion -- not a vote -- but expect the Tampa City Council to officially decide whether to keep or kill the camera system in the next few months.

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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