Jul 7, 2022 - News

After assaults, Des Moines adds a skywalk camera system

Illustration of a giant security camera watching a small person on their cell phone.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Installation of about two dozen security cameras in Des Moines' skywalk system was completed in the last week.

Why it matters: It's a matter of public safety and important to the vitality of downtown's businesses and entertainment venues, Polk County Supervisor Tom Hockensmith told Axios Tuesday.

Catch up fast: An assault of a young couple in 2019 prompted calls for tighter security in the city's 4.2-mile skywalk system.

  • Polk County and the city of DSM initially allocated $25,000 each towards the project.
  • Building a fiber optics network for the system took several years to complete, Hockensmith said.

Driving the news: On June 21, county supervisors approved another $75,000 to complete the project, bringing the total costs shared by local governments and businesses to around $277,000, Hockensmith said.

  • The additional contribution from Polk County was necessary to cover areas near the Iowa Events Center that required additional infrastructure, he said.

Details: Some businesses or residential complexes with skywalk access have used cameras for years as part of their private security efforts.

  • The new network will be monitored by private skywalk security. DSM police will have access to the footage, Hockensmith said.

Flashback: The Court Avenue entertainment district has had a camera system accessible by law enforcement for more than five years.

  • Police have praised the system for its use in investigations and help in deterring crime..

Of note: Recording in public is generally considered legal but there are locations — such as restrooms — where courts have ruled that bystanders have a "reasonable expectation of privacy."

  • Groups such as the ACLU have voiced concerns about public video surveillance, saying it can result in discriminatory targeting and have a chilling effect on public life.

Bottom line: If you're in public, there's a good probability that you're on camera.

  • That now includes DSM's skywalks.

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