The city of Tampa, Florida, found itself in an unusual place from a security perspective after the Republican National Convention, staged in the run-up to the presidential election. The city now possesses a modern set of surveillance cameras it never intended to use for general policing. According to The Tampa Tribune, the city has decided to embrace the system, with some limitations, and begin using it to protect citizens from everyday crime.
Special events to normal usage
The situation in Tampa highlights one element of camera surveillance – the devices can serve as important safety features at one-time events or become ongoing crime-fighting tools. This second type of monitoring is likely to cause concern in some members of the community. However, The Tribune reported that the steps police in Tampa plan to take are to make certain the cameras never become a civil liberties risk. For example, the system is not meant for live monitoring. Instead, the tapes from the devices are meant to be used as evidence and investigation tools after crimes are reported. The tapes will be destroyed 120 days after creation unless they contain evidence.
The limitations and usage cases attached to the cameras show the potential ways they can help. For example, though there are no plans for live monitoring of the system at normal times, it is available for events like parades, where its function will be much closer to its original role protecting the RNC. There are many small security features about the hardware, meant to make sure it cannot be used inappropriately. For example, the system needs logins from users, meaning outsiders are locked out and police officers will be held accountable for their access patterns.
A different area news source, The Tampa Bay Times, stated that there have already been examples of security cameras proving their worth to the public. Police Chief Jane Castor said that the system led to the arrest of a suspect in an assault on a woman in early November. Tampa Police personnel say the 63-year-old victim was struck and dragged by a homeless man, according to the source, and the new cameras showed him shedding an identifying garment after the attack. The police caught up with the man in a park and made the arrest. Castor chalked his capture up to cameras, saying it would likely have not been possible without them.