Dubuque expanding network that already includes 1,300 cameras

Published: Oct. 26, 2022 at 10:13 PM CDT
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - The city of Dubuque is expanding its already-sizable network of cameras surveilling the city.

Earlier this week, Mayor Brad Cavanagh mentioned the “continued investment” in the security camera network in his State of the City address.

Here are stats on the camera network from the Resident’s Guide to the budget for Fiscal Year 2023:

  • In 2021, the city installed 30 new cameras.
  • Also that year, 53 cameras were replaced.
  • There are a total of 1,307 cameras.
  • 710 Traffic/Security cameras are recorded through the Traffic Operations Center in City Hall.
  • The remaining 597 cameras are recorded at various servers throughout the City.
  • The recommended budget has funding for additional cameras in the amount of $552,562 from FY 2023 to FY 2027.
  • The Guide states, “The City will also continue the aggressive deployment of security cameras.”

The Resident’s Budget Guide lists a Downtown Security Camera Program: “This project ($150,000) provides equipment, installation, and software licenses for the placement of fixed cameras ($2,500 each) installed near roadways, alleys, and signalized intersections in Downtown Dubuque.”

Chief of Police Jeremy Jensen defends the system, saying it’s instrumental in helping his department.

“Honestly, we solve crime. I mean, that’s plain and simple,” said Jensen.

“It helps us be just quicker. It just changes the speed at what we can do investigations by quite a bit,” he added.

David Ness with the city’s Traffic Engineering Department added the cameras aren’t just for solving crime.

“They are used citywide...and it makes us all more efficient at our jobs,” said Ness.

He gave a specific example of a camera recently added near the Q Casino, on the ramp feeding in Julien Dubuque Drive.

“We just wanted to monitor, you know, as concert-goers were coming and going from the Q, we wanted to see how much traffic and what issues they were having. And by having a camera there, recording and documenting it, you know, it helps us to prepare for the next time,” said Ness.

For Mark Stringer, Executive Director of the ACLU of Iowa, the ability to investigate crimes more quickly is not a good enough reason to have this surveillance, let alone using it to study traffic.

“We’re not supportive, generally suspicious even, of local governments using video surveillance to watch and record people just because they want to,” said Stringer.

Jensen said people in Dubuque had privacy concerns when cameras went in initially. ”When they first, first started using we heard that, but there were some concerns,” said Jensen.

He adds that now is a different story. “Now, like I said, the citizens pretty much expect us to be checking the cameras.”

Jensen calls the cameras “a gift.” Stringer said, “I just think it’s important for people to reflect on why do they feel like they need to do this.”