By Sara Semelka
The Columbia Daily Tribune
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
In a move that surprised city staff and the downtown business community alike, the Columbia City Council last night on a 6-1 vote denied a transfer of funds that would have allowed the lease of surveillance cameras for downtown streets.
The mobile camera units, perched on trailers at downtown intersections for the past month during a trial period, will soon be hauled away, Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said.
What started out as a transfer of funds from one account to another to cover a budgeted expense became a lengthy discussion of privacy, safety and civil rights among council members and members of the public.
Matt Volkert, of the Van Matre, Harrison, Volkert and Hollis law firm, said he does not want the cameras even though he often works late into the night. “Giving police officers tools to combat crime is one thing. But things don’t take a turn for the worse all at once. It’s a series of steps,” he said. “These will be abused. People are corruptible, and they will abuse if they have the chance.”
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