Manatee County surveillance cameras

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — Manatee County is taking steps to secure its buildings, maintaining hundreds of cameras and hours upon hours of video. County commissioners got an update on the camera surveillance program during this week’s workshop.

“In this society we have to make sure that our citizens are as safe as can be,” said Commissioner Robin DiSabatino.  She is speaking about their surveillance camera program, which monitors many of their government buildings. The county currently has more than 650 cameras in operation — most of them are for security at the jail.

“As you know, the sheriff has the bulk of the cameras in his facilities — the jail, the court house and this center over there in DeSoto,” said DiSabatino.

But pretty soon that could change, as there is a proposal in the works to add an additional 285 cameras.  If approved, the new cameras will be added in places like area parks, bus stations and various utility buildings.

The move is being met with mixed feelings.

“I personally don’t have a problem with it. I think it will just increase the public safety for all of us who live in Manatee County,” said resident Carmen Creed.

But Ralph Barnette disagrees, saying that “Adding additional security cameras is a little overboard, and I think the county has more pressing things to do with its money.”

It currently cost the county $575 a year to maintain each camera. Adding the additional cameras to the current fleet will increase the cost for the camera surveillance program from $542,000 a year to $628,000.

DiSabatino says there is also concern about storage and monitoring the video that is recorded.

“Of course, we are weighing the cost versus the benefit and also the amount of storage and capacity is always a problem.”

This was the first of several workshops on the county’s surveillance camera program.  Officials are expected to make a final decision on how to proceed as they finalize the budget.