|Julia Barnes, a University
Spanish instructor, and Tom Bavis are seen crossing Lumpkin Street
from the approximate view of one of the cameras which will be
installed on multiple street corners downtown. "It's a little out of
control down here, as a teacher it worries me," said Barnes about the
cameras. (David Banks - The Red & Black)
Students leaving home for the
fall might be surprised to learn they're still under curfew.
Downtown Athens soon could look much different
after a series of policies and ordinances passed by the Athens-Clarke
County Commission this summer go into effect.
Among the changes made by the commission are a
smoking ban -- which prohibits smoking from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. in all
restaurants and bars -- an obstruction and prowling policy and an
ordinance that allows for the installation of at least 15 surveillance
University students will now be watching their
backs closer than ever.
The Athens-Clarke County Commission voted 8-2
in favor of installing a minimum of 15 cameras downtown.
The exact number of cameras, and when they
will be installed, will depend on the bids the police department receives,
said Hilda Sorrow, the ACC Police Department spokesperson.
The purchase and installation of cameras will
cost about $116,000, according to commission documents.
Some commissioners who voted against the
camera installation said they think it is unnecessary to watch the public
"(It's) sending the wrong message," said
Commissioner David Lynn. "We don't need 24-hour monitoring of law-abiding
Commissioner States McCarter, however, said he
thought the cameras would aid the police in tackling the crime problem.
"It's a sign of our times," he said. "We get
recorded everywhere we go now ... I'm a privacy rights person too, but
anything you do on the street ought to be (public).
"If I want to go out with someone's wife, I'm
not going to do that downtown and flaunt it," he said. "I'll take her back
According to the ordinance, ACC police will
monitor the cameras during "peak activity hours" from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.,
Thursday-Saturday, as well as during "special events."
Of the $116,000, allotted for the cameras,
$86,000 will go toward equipment, and $30,000 will go toward installation
and miscellaneous costs.
"Given downtown's increased population density
and transition from a regional retail center to a regional hospitality
venue, there is a greater demand for police services in order to keep the
area safe," the ordinance states.
Both the camera and obstruction ordinances are
a response to the November shooting last year outside the Insomnia
nightclub, Commissioner Tom Chasteen said.
Brannon Parker, a sophomore from Bainbridge,
said the cameras could be helpful if a medium were reached between
spending a lot of money and developing an effective method of stopping
"I guess it would come in handy with someone
breaking into a car or something," he said. "If it were my car getting
broken into, I would like it to be on camera.
Commissioner McCarter said the commission
adopted the ordinances to "improve the downtown situation."
"There is such a diverse population of
people," he said. "No matter how innocuous it is, people are going to come
out and (disagree) no matter what you do."