Downtown Tampa cameras here to stay, for now - FOX 13 News

Downtown Tampa cameras here to stay, for now

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

The Republican National Convention is long gone, but dozens of cameras that came with it are still in place, and they're still being used.

There are 119 cameras, 78 of them in downtown Tampa. They are still up and running, still capturing any crimes that go on.

But what else are they capturing?

'There's nothing good that will come from these cameras other than furthering a police state," said Tampa resident Andrew Spears.

That was the debate at the Tampa City Council: public safety versus the public's rights.

"This is a huge issue: public safety versus the right to privacy, the right to walk around and not be surveilled," said councilmember Mary Mulhern. "We are the government. We are talking about government surveillance."

Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor says the cameras deter crime, and she wants them kept right where they are. But she says that no one's rights will be violated, and that officers are not physically monitoring the cameras unless something happens.

"The tape will run 24 hours a day, and then we'll use it for historical purposes. If something happens, then we can go back and see if there's video associated with it," Chief Castor said.

And while she addressed council members' concerns, there's really nothing they can do to stop the police and the mayor from using them. The council signed off on buying the cameras, and now they can't micro-manage a city department to tell them how to regulate them.

Council member Harry Cohen was concerned with the unintended consequences of the cameras: because what they capture is all public record, anyone can get the video.

"That would mean that they could be asked for anonymously. That they could be published," Cohen said.

Moving the cameras to high- crime areas as was suggested, but it's is not cost effective, according to the chief

Members of the ACLU left the meeting, deflated that the police chief isn't backing down.

"We just want them down. The reality is, it looks like they're going to keep them. So now it's more like damage control," said Yvette Acosta-Macmillan, with the ACLU.

Councilwoman Mulhern half-joked that she hopes Tampa's new slogan isn't "Come to Tampa, where you're being watched."

In the end, councilmembers asked the city attorney to come up with an ordinance that will protect residents, but also allow the cameras to stay.

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