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Published March 24 2012

Fargo residents protest downtown surveillance cameras

FARGO – About 15 people turned out Saturday in downtown Fargo to protest the Police Department’s proposed plan for surveillance cameras, even though police officials say there’s no guarantee the cameras will actually become reality.

Lt. Jeff Skuza said police view the cameras as an added resource to help deter crime in the downtown area and to assist with investigations when crime does occur.

But protesters like Brandon Wald with Occupy F/M argued Saturday that crime downtown isn’t bad enough to warrant constant surveillance by the police.

“The crime rate is so low, it’s unnecessary,” Wald said from the corner of Broadway and Second Avenue North.

Holding a picket sign that read “Say no to downtown surveillance,” Stephanie Ness of Fargo said she disagreed with giving police more power, especially for an issue that she doesn’t see as a problem.

“I’m downtown all the time, and I don’t feel unsafe here,” Ness said. “I don’t think they need to be doing that.”

Skuza said the camera plan has been slowly moving forward since discussions on the topic started last month.

“We’re going slow and careful on it,” he said.

Currently, the department is checking with vendors to see what kinds of options are available and examining the logistics involved in actually deploying the cameras.

But, Skuza said, it will ultimately be up to the community whether the plan gets approved.

“The main thing is that we’re not going to deploy cameras if the downtown people don’t want them,” he said.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535