ST. PETERSBURG — Fifteen more cameras could soon be watching large crowds and crime-laden corners.
The City Council will decide some time this month whether the Police Department can install surveillance cameras used for the Republican National Convention to keep watch over locations across the city.
The council's Public Safety & Infrastructure Committee raised few objections to the cameras while vetting the plan at a recent meeting.
Six cameras already are in use at the Mahaffey Theater, the city marina, police headquarters, the Sebring Building downtown and at Fourth Avenue and Martin Luther King Street S.
Police Chief Chuck Harmon wants the extra eyes downtown to monitor large crowds. It also could be cheaper to use them there because mounting them on city property will reduce installation costs.
Council member Wengay Newton asked police officials during the meeting if the city has a crime problem in the high-traffic and tourist areas downtown. The answer: No.
"It will enhance our service," Harmon said.
With city parks holding dozens of events every year, the cameras could trim the number of officers needed for festivals such as Ribfest.
By using iPads and iPhones, police also could monitor "hot spots" for prostitution or drug selling in real time.
If the council approves the plan, the city will seek bids from contractors for the installation. Harmon expects to pay between $4,000 to $15,000 to install each camera, depending on placement.
The cameras will not be constantly monitored, but images will be stored for at least 30 days. Signs will warn people they are being recorded.
A federal security grant paid for the cameras. Most of them, which cost nearly $263,000, have been in storage since the convention ended.
Council member Jim Kennedy urged the department to protect the privacy of citizens since the cameras could zoom inside windows. Harmon agreed and said he would tweak the department's rules for their use.
Council member Steve Kornell asked whether the public could request the video images to broadcast on television or online.
The videos couldn't be used for commercial purposes, said Chief Assistant Attorney Mark Winn.
Mark Puente can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. Follow him at Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.