Mall Cameras move forward …barely

After the December 3 City Council meeting, Charlottesville Chief of Police Tim Longo stood outside the chamber talking to a woman who expressed her support for Longo’s plan to install closed circuit TV cameras on and around the Downtown Mall. Minutes before, it appeared that councilors were close to killing that plan, which would cost roughly $300,000. But a last-minute revision to the system, proposed by Councilor Kevin Lynch, kept it alive, albeit in a different form.

"The outcome was better than what looked like was going to come out of the meeting [on Mall security cameras]," says Police Chief Tim Longo.
Previous coverage:

They see you, but can you see them?
Surveillance camera policy raises questions of access, oversight

Police use video in investigations
Seek O.K. from property owners to install cameras

Of cameras and cannabis
$300K for Mall surveillance goes to bid

Looking into Baltimore, London cameras
As city considers Mall cameras, data inconclusive on effectiveness

Longo discusses cameras on the Mall
Downtown Mall to become an even better spot to “see and be seen”

Councilors voted 4-1 to let Longo request bids for a camera system that, unlike the original, does not feed into a centralized system. Instead, Council approved a plan for individual cameras that could be moved between different locations as their use dictated. Mayor David Brown was the only councilor to vote against the revised plan.

Longo calls the plan "something I can work with."

"The outcome was better than what looked like was going to come out of the meeting," says Longo. "We can go to venders and say, ‘Here’s our limitations,’ and see what they can fit into that."

Longo says that the major disadvantage for the police of such a system is its inefficiency. Instead of going to a central location to retrieve data from a certain camera, police would have to access each camera individually—sometimes via ladder.

Despite vocal support from the public—many of them Mall business owners, some of whom painted a questionably bleak picture of a crime-ridden Downtown—councilors first appeared ready to deny Longo’s proposal to install 30 high-resolution cameras with the ability to zoom, pan and tilt on and around the Mall.

Dave Norris, who would go on to second the motion to approve the revised plan, questioned whether businesses could install their own cameras for safety. In fact, Longo pointed out that Virginia National Bank (VNB), which has a branch on the Mall, offered to pay for its own camera.

"When we heard that the city might be entertaining a project of some cameras for the outside Mall," says VNB President Glenn Rust, "we said if they needed a camera by our area, we would gladly donate it to the city."

Norris also asked Longo to address the question of a surveillance slippery slope. What’s to keep the city, he asked, from eventually putting cameras in all of its neighborhoods? Though Lynch sided with the use of cameras, he agreed with Norris that centralizing data goes down that slippery slope.

"I see too many problems with bringing all [data] into one place," he said.

Councilors apparently were more comfortable with the decentralized system that Lynch suggested, though Brown voted against the plan.

"I’m just personally uneasy with public surveillance," he says. "It’s not something that makes me feel comfortable moving forward with. I don’t want to see the United States become sort of a Britain, where there are cameras everywhere. Because I don’t see any clear benefit, I don’t really want to move forward with it."

C-VILLE welcomes news tips from readers. Send them to

Posted In:     News

Previous Post

Washington gets four life terms [Updated December 11]

Next Post

Long an All-American [December 12]

Our comments system is designed to foster a lively debate of ideas, offer a forum for the exchange of ad hoc information, and solicit honest, respectful feedback about the work we do. We’re glad you’re participating. Here are a few simple rules to follow, which should be relatively straightforward.

1) Don’t call people names or accuse them of things you cannot support.
2) Don’t direct foul language, racial slurs, or offensive terms at other commenters or our staff.
3) Don’t use the discussion on our site for commercial (or shameless personal) promotion.

We reserve the right to remove posts and ban commenters who violate any of the rules listed above, or the spirit of the discussion. We’re trying to create a safe space for a wide range of people to express themselves, and we believe that goal can only be achieved through thoughtful, sensitive editorial control.

If you have questions or comments about our policies or about a specific post, please send an e-mail to

Leave a Reply

Notify of