AMES, Iowa — The Ames City Council has approved installing security cameras in Campustown near Iowa State University, after first considering the move around ten years ago.
Last summer the streetscape in the 100 block of Welch Avenue was rebuilt and the city of Ames installed fiber-optic lines to be able to connect the cameras to the city system.
Initially there were concerns over privacy issues by some members of the Campustown Action Association, a group of around 40 businesses operating in the Campustown area.
“I definitely think there are some benefits to it. There’s a lot that goes on with breaking bottles and different dangerous things to people leaving bars all angry and getting kicked out,” said Brandon Kampstra, an Iowa State University student. “I think there’s definitely a little bit of worry about it of invasion of privacy. As you know, this is considered drunk highway right here. There’s a lot of people walking along, so I think a lot of people would be offended about the invasion of privacy.”
The Campustown Action Association decided the benefits outweighed the privacy concerns and approved the plan. The proposal was also approved by the Iowa State University Student Government.
“There are small things that happen around here, and we’ve been told that in some of those instances they would have had an easier time finding someone if they’d had the cameras,” said Karin Chitty, executive director of the Campustown Action Association. “Overall, the Campustown Action Association has been very supportive of the police department. Moving forward with these, we feel like the benefits are going to outweigh the concerns about privacy.”
The Ames Police Department does not plan to monitor the cameras unless there is a big event like the Iowa-Iowa State game.
“We’ve investigated several very serious assaults in the past on Welch Avenue where we were never able to identify a suspect,” said Commander Jason Tuttle of Ames Police. “We’d have a description of a white male who is 18 to 20 years old and they fled the area, so it’s very hard for us to go back to those families and tell them there’s not much that we can do in those investigations.”
Interim Police Chief Geoff Huff told the city council that he met with the Iowa State University Student Government and they endorsed the plan.
The city council approved the request without dissent. The council did ask for follow-up statistics to see how many times the video was used in crime investigations and how many requests the police had for copies of video from the system.