The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

September 22, 2013

County expanding surveillance at sites

Historic courthouse, government center to get 26 cameras

MANKATO — The next stage in Blue Earth County’s effort to install security cameras around all of its facilities is under way at the Historic Courthouse and the Blue Earth County Government Center.

The County Board approved a $94,000 contract for the installation of 26 cameras at the two buildings on Fifth Street, a price that includes five years of service and maintenance. Currently, only the Blue Earth County Justice Center has video surveillance.

Unlike the Justice Center — which has 115 cameras to cover the jail, courtroom, courtroom holding cells and public areas — the downtown buildings can get by with fewer cameras, said Tim Edwards, the county’s physical plant director. “The clientele” at the Justice Center, as Edwards puts it, is the primary difference.

The courthouse and government center are home to staff who handle licensing, land records, taxpayer services, human services programs and other administrative duties, so a dozen or so cameras at each was deemed sufficient. The cameras will be focused largely on the grounds and doorways to the buildings.

The purpose of the cameras is to discourage anyone who might be considering burglarizing the facilities or harming staff or the public as they come and go from the buildings, along with providing video images of any criminal activity that might occur.

“Really, it’s safety in general,” Edwards said.

When the cameras are initially installed in coming weeks, they will only provide digital recordings that won’t be viewed unless criminal activity occurs. But the system will be set up so that law enforcement could eventually monitor the images in real time.

“We’re seeing if we could have our dispatchers tap into it if an alarm went off or something,” Edwards said.

Charlie Berg, the county’s information technology director, said there are no immediate plans to have dispatchers monitor the cameras. But the system could be connected in the future to either the Mankato Department of Public Safety, which already monitors scores of cameras scattered around downtown, or the Sheriff’s Department at the Justice Center.

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