Downtown camera debate rages on

By: Bill Schammert

The battle over big brother rages on in downtown Lincoln.  Do we need cameras at 14th and O streets?

It was the main topic, yet again, at the Citizen Police Advisory Board meeting.

“This is one location where I think cameras could help law enforcement and citizens,” Lincoln Police Chief Jim Peschong told board members on Wednesday.

Right now there are two cameras, one on the northwest and one on the southeast corners of 14th and O streets.

Scott Hatfield is part of the board.  He's also owned Duffy's Tavern for the past six years.

“It's a discussion we need to have.  Are these cameras going to protect our citizens? Or, are they going to be there to watch our citizens?”

The cameras have been off since last December.

The chief says all recordings would be completely destroyed after 72 hours, unless they're needed for evidence.  Still, Hatfield has his reservations.

“You look at the thousands of people that are in this neighborhood and you look at the incidents that happen, I think it's a small percentage of people who actually have problems.”

But, Chief Peschong says the evidence is overwhelming.

So far this year, there have been 103 assaults within a 500-foot radius of 14th and O streets.  That's more than double the next closest part of the city, 13th and E streets.

“I'm not trying to deter anyone from going down there.  I want it to be a viable part of the community.  I want people to enjoy themselves and anything I can do to prevent them from being victimized, I want to do that too,” the chief said.

The final decision is up to the mayor, but Chief Peschong says there is no timetable for when that might happen.