Setting up surveillance downtown

CCTV — when implemented and used properly — can be a force multiplier

"We know far less about camera technology than a lot of our corporate partners who work downtown," says Allen, co-founder of the Minneapolis SafeZone Collaborative ( "They've been doing cameras for years. It only makes sense that we talk to them and use their expertise. They've become real partners in helping us figure out how to do a camera system, how to fund it, and to train officers how to monitor video."

Allen's advice for other agencies is "you have to have community support for cameras;" and he includes businesses in his definition of community.

Before cameras are turned on, a camera monitoring policy, which addresses privacy and video retention concerns, should be made available to the public.

Monitoring the future

When used judiciously, Ratcliffe says CCTV can be an effective way to prevent crime. But, he says, he's concerned with what Gary Marx, author of "Undercover: Police Surveillance in America," has called "surveillance creep."

There seems to be a growing trend of residents running systems, and Ratcliffe says that creates potential for abuse and invasion of privacy because there's no accountability.

A former officer with the Metropolitan Police in London, he advises surveillance systems be monitored by police.

As long as police departments bring in good codes of practice and use CCTV ethically today, he says the public will continue to accept surveillance when they are in public places.

Rebecca Kanable is a freelance writer living in Wisconsin. She has been writing about law enforcement issues for approximately 10 years. She can be reached at

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