Mason City council discussing implementing free wireless internet downtown, public safety technology | Cerro Gordo County

MASON CITY, Iowa – With an uptick in shooting incidents in Mason City this year, including two this week alone, the city is looking at a high-tech solution to help curb the problem. 

Over the past six months, Police Chief Jeff Brinkley and City Administrator Aaron Burnett have been working on implementing the ‘SAFEcity’ program to aid in these investigations and potentially prevent repeat incidents. The technology would utilize gunshot detection, license plate readers, video cameras and a wireless guardian that would detect radio waves for communications.

Brinkley says the program would not track personal user information from communication devices, and any information that is collected will be restricted and retained for a certain amount of time. The information collected would be aggregated to develop leads.

“It’s point in time data for wireless devices and vehicles. The next level of this, if we want to go further with this information in the investigation, would be judicial scrutiny through subpoena or search warrant application through a judge. There’s a legal standard we would need to meet that would allow us to go further with that information.”

Speaking to council members at Tuesday night’s meeting, Brinkley says the technology would be vital in helping authorities solve cases, and would be another resource the department can utilize as they continue their staffing recruitment efforts.

“We’ve had a lot of incidents where we have known parties who are involved in some of these incidents, but they are not cooperative with us in the investigation. Sometimes, some of the evidence that’s sometimes available to us isn’t in these cases. What this does is leverage some tools and that technology to give us the opportunity to generate leads in cases like these.”

The cost of implementing the program would be offset by the ‘SMARTcity’ program that would add free wireless internet around downtown, which, through annual advertising revenue, would generate around $500,000 each year to the city.

Due to concerns over privacy and notice of the proposal, as well as wanting to engage public feedback, city council is expected to act on the proposal at their May 17 meeting.

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