Surveillance cameras keep an eye on Vail
December 1, 2009
VAIL, Colo. – Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger hopes the town can use camera surveillance to help the police department during criminal investigations, pointing out that camera footage of the Nov. 7 shooting at the Sandbar in West Vail will be critical to the prosecution of that case.
A Carbondale man was killed in the shooting.
The town approved cameras last summer to help code enforcement officers watch for traffic-related violations in loading and delivery areas, but Henninger said Tuesday the cameras could provide the extra service for the police department.
“We think cameras discourage people from acting up (criminally),” Henninger said at a Town Council work session.
Town Council members aren’t so sure expanding the purpose of the cameras to include surveillance is the right way to go, at least not before holding a public hearing during an evening session, members said.
The cameras are being installed at the Christiania loading zone, Seibert Circle, Bridge Street by the Toy Store, Checkpoint Charlie, Solaris, and Gore Creek Drive, west of the Mill Creek court building. Henninger said they should be operational in about a week.
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Council members questioned privacy concerns and the necessity of surveillance cameras, but Henninger said of the 50 or so cameras already installed throughout town, there hasn’t been a single privacy complaint. He pointed out that Vail Mountain has about 150 cameras operating all over the ski area.
Longtime Vail resident Kaye Ferry said she had no idea there were cameras in town already. She said she typically goes to every Vail Town Council meeting, so if she doesn’t know about them, she suspects the rest of the community doesn’t either.
“I think it’s a horrible infringement on our privacy rights,” Ferry said.
The new cameras have the capability to record up to seven days of footage, Town Manager Stan Zemler said. The town bought cameras with those capabilities because it wanted “a camera that lends itself to a future consideration,” he said.
“We went with a better quality camera because what does the future bring – we don’t know,” Zemler said.
Jim Lamont, president of the Vail Homeowners Association, said he and his board support the cameras for customer-service reasons, meaning they’d like the footage to be available to the public. People could use the cameras to decide when to enter certain areas because they could avoid traffic congestion at certain times, Lamont said.
Councilwoman Susie Tjossem said cameras are becoming the “new norm,” and that people tend to expect they’re being recorded and accept it.
The council decided to set the cameras up without recording until a public hearing could be held to collect community input about surveillance.