Camera security coming to Campustown after Ames City Council approval


The Campustown clock tower Feb. 20, 2019, dusted with snow.

Finn Mcnally

Ames City Council approved a project to install security cameras in public areas of Campustown during its meeting Tuesday. This project has been in the works for nine years and is intended to increase safety in the area.

Cameras will be placed in strategic locations throughout the area in order to detect and deter crime. The project is strongly supported by the Iowa State Student Government, and the motion was passed unanimously by the City Council. 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa (ACLU) voiced concern about the installation of cameras and called for the City Council to reject the proposed version project.

Their release said: “Everyone can understand the concept that preventing a crime is better than responding to one. But it is critical to note that all people are being watched in this scenario. As we have said publicly and often, we have deep concerns about cities simply watching people ‘just because.’ The chilling effect on ordinary people’s lives and their exercise of fundamental rights is real.” 

The staff of the City Council addressed some of the concerns in the report. They ensured that facial recognition and license plate tracking technology would not be used. They also said video footage would only be archived for a maximum of 30 days before being destroyed, unless it was part of an investigation. 

Ward 2 Rep. Tim Gartin also addressed general concern over the project.

“I share a concern with a surveillance state, but you walk into any grocery store, there are going to be cameras there, and I think it’s in some ways what people have become accustomed to,” Gartin said. 

Gartin also voiced his opinion on the benefits of the project. 

“If you have a friend or loved one who’s been the victim of a crime and a tool like this is available to help with that investigation, I think you find that there’s a lot of merit to this,” Gartin said. 

Also addressed in the meeting was the city’s future efforts in sustainability. The council awarded the Sustainability Solutions Group (SSG) Workers Cooperative a contract to develop a Climate Action Plan for Ames.

SSG is based in Vancouver, Canada, and has developed climate action plans for communities throughout Canada as well as Tacoma, Washington, and Oregon City, Oregon, in the U.S. 

Iowa State’s Director of Sustainability Merry Rankin said SSG’s references had described their work as creative in how it was able to engage the community in the plan. 

The contract will be worth up to $120,000 for SSG to lead the development of Ames’ climate plan for the next 18 months.

Also, Mayor John Haila declared May as Mental Health Awareness Month along with the City Council announcement of a Mental Health Initiative. Both are in response to the pandemic of the past year and the toll it can have on mental health.

The initiative begins with a mental health public forum, which will include a keynote speaker, a panel of mental health experts and a Q&A portion. The forum will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. May 20 at the city auditorium and will also be available via livestream.

The initiative will include a series of mental health training sessions over the next few months and will end in September with a mental health expo for Suicide Awareness Month.

Ames City Council will meet again at 6 p.m. May 11, and the meeting will be accessible via Zoom and livestream.