In parts of Tampa Bay, some police departments have been too quick to randomly install surveillance cameras along public streets and sidewalks with little or no justification for keeping law-abiding residents constantly under watch. But St. Petersburg's plan to install cameras along an isolated part of the Pinellas Trail is a targeted approach to a specific problem. It focuses on a particular part of the trail where bicyclists have been robbed and attacked, and it is in the public interest to keep the entire length of the trail as safe as possible.
The city is moving ahead with a project to install about two dozen surveillance cameras along the trail between 43rd and 49th Streets S at a cost of about $100,000. The cameras will operate around the clock and could be viewed in real time by police, although they will not be monitored continuously. They also could act as a deterrent along the trail, which cannot be constantly patrolled by police.
The Pinellas Trail is essentially a 42-mile linear park, and there is no indication that surveillance cameras are needed along its entire length. Parts of the trail run through more populated, well-traveled areas than others. But what makes the trail unique is its length, and it loses some of its luster if the public feels unsafe along particular sections. St. Petersburg is making a reasonable investment in a test approach to help ensure the entire trail remains open and reasonably secure for all.