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Fargo police discussing surveillance cameras for downtown

FARGO - Police here are discussing the possibility of installing surveillance cameras in the downtown area to deter crime and assist with investigations when crime does happen, Lt. Joel Vettel said.

Cameras for downtown
Fargo police are discussing putting in dome-style surveillance cameras like this downtown. stock.xchng

FARGO - Police here are discussing the possibility of installing surveillance cameras in the downtown area to deter crime and assist with investigations when crime does happen, Lt. Joel Vettel said.

Police have discussed the idea with the Downtown Community Partnership and received a "fairly receptive" response, Vettel said, adding that input also will likely be sought from the downtown neighborhood association.

The concept is still in the preliminary stages, Vettel said. Police have taken a limited look at costs and what infrastructure would be needed to put dome-style cameras on lampposts and capture the video.

"There's certainly nothing set in stone," he said.

The Downtown Community Partnership hasn't taken an official position on the idea, and downtown merchants have expressed mixed reactions, said Mike Hahn, president and CEO of the partnership.

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Some fear that installing cameras would give the impression there are serious crime issues downtown, when in fact the top two public safety issues are panhandlers and public intoxication, Hahn said.

"We don't have real severe crime, and so a lot of the businesses feel that's overkill as far as having the cameras up," he said.

Others feel cameras would be a good deterrent to crime and would help maintain a safe downtown, he said, noting it's been done in other cities, more commonly in Europe.

"It's probably something that needs to be discussed more with the police department," he said.

Vettel said police understand surveillance cameras also can raise privacy concerns, and they hope to gather public feedback on the idea.

"We're not looking to force this down anybody's throat," he said.

Meanwhile, police are taking a more serious look at mobile video equipment that could be used at large events requiring additional security, such as the Downtown Street Fair, he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

Related Topics: CRIMETECHNOLOGY
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