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Wendy Reuer, Published August 06 2012

Fargo police plan for temporary downtown surveillance cameras

FARGO – Police here plan to install temporary surveillance cameras downtown after businesses along NP Avenue complained of increasing crime.

Police say three cameras will be installed along the NP Avenue corridor. The cameras – which will only monitor public spaces such as streets and sidewalks – will record and feed video to the police station 24 hours a day, said Fargo police Lt. Jeff Skuza.

“We figure we’ll be able to keep data for about a week and a half,” Skuza said.

This spring, police began to consider a plan to install permanent surveillance cameras at downtown intersections and high pedestrian-traffic areas.

The cameras would gather leads and visual evidence of crimes such as assaults in the downtown area.

Skuza said the Downtown Community Partnership has not decided if it will endorse seeking permanent cameras, a step police are waiting on before moving forward with the plan.

In the meantime, the temporary cameras along NP Avenue would help address what businesses felt was an increase in crimes such as vandalism and theft, he said.

Skuza said he approached the businesses along NP Avenue to gauge support for camera use.

“We wouldn’t do this unless we were invited in,” Skuza said Monday.

The idea of permanent cameras has been met some public skepticism. About 15 protestors picketed downtown in March against the security camera proposal.

One of the protestors, Brandon Wald with Occupy F/M, said at the time that he felt downtown crime was not enough to warrant surveillance.

Skuza said he expects the temporary cameras will be controversial as well.

He many businesses already use their own indoor surveillance cameras, but the video is often not as helpful as it could be in gathering evidence.

“We know what the trouble spots are and know what to watch for,” he said. “I can understand where those concerns come from, but we don’t operate in a vacuum, there is plenty of oversight,” he said.

The Fargo Police Department will cover the cameras’ $9,000 cost, which includes the equipment, installation and software.

Skuza said it may be up to a month before the cameras are up and running.

“We hope it’s not that long, but it could be that long,” he said.

Police have no set date on how long they plan to leave the temporary cameras up in the initial location.

After the software is installed at the station, the cameras can be moved at any time to different locations if needed, Skuza said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530

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