Dallas police to use federally funded mobile surveillance cameras for JFK assassination anniversary events
By Scott Goldstein
Dallas Morning News
11:38 am on September 11, 2013
This mobile surveillance camera trailer advertised by local company Comprehensive Communications Services appears to be similar to the four trailers Dallas police hope to purchase. (comprehensivecom.net)
Four new Dallas police mobile surveillance cameras will be deployed for events connected to the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination, Chief David Brown said this morning.
Brown made the comments during a City Council meeting, shortly before council members unanimously approved the use of $155,000 in U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant funds to buy trailers outfitted with cameras.
“The first use is to provide a camera network in and around the JFK 50th,” Brown said.
The chief said the cameras would also likely be used for security at the Dallas Marathon, in light of the Boston Marathon bombings. They could also be deployed to monitor more typical crime problems, such as robbery sprees or drug houses “where we have a finite area to cover where the crimes are happening,” Brown said.
The agenda item prompted a broader discussion about the growing Dallas police use of surveillance cameras as a crime-fighting tool throughout the city. There are currently 140 privately funded cameras downtown and 20 cameras in other areas of the city..
Dallas police have plans to put another 108 cameras in the top nine of 27 designated crime “hot spots” that are located throughout the city. Those are expected to be funded with confiscated funds and private donations.
Southern Dallas council member Dwaine Caraway, a big proponent of cameras, said it is not fair that the majority of the cameras are downtown.
“In Pleasant Grove and Oak Cliff we have multiple needs for these types of cameras,” Caraway said.
Council member Philip Kingston raised questions about how Dallas police use the cameras, including how long they retain the video and whether cameras in general are truly effective.
“Of the downtown cameras, we do have data to support their effectiveness,” Brown said.
The chief said that since they began installing the downtown cameras in 2007 through the end of 2012, there was a 41 percent reduction in crime. He acknowledged that that is anecdotal evidence and does not constitute scholarly research.
Kingston pointed out that overall crime generally dropped in major cities across the country during that period, regardless of whether cameras were present.
Council members have asked Brown for a more comprehensive briefing on his department’s use of cameras, so this discussion is certain to continue. Stay tuned.