Volume 15, Number 49
Last Wednesday Town of Wake Forest officials happily announced the town was partnering with WRAL-TV to install two cameras downtown, cameras they anticipated would spotlight the events in Centennial Plaza in front of town hall and along historic South White Street, events such as the Wake Forest Christmas Parade, the Lighting of Wake Forest, Friday Night on White and Meet in the Street.
Within hours, town officials including Communications and Public Affairs Director Bill Crabtree were faced with a rush of inquiries about the cameras and what they would show to the WRAL audience. Many of the concerns centered on a fear that their privacy would be invaded. “I think that was the initial concern,” Crabtree said Monday.
“We needed to provide additional clarification about how the cameras were going to be utilized,” Crabtree said, and that led to several hours of conversation with WRAL to understand how the cameras are used in other towns from Roxboro to South Hill to Apex.
The cameras are on the south side of the police department’s Brooks Street Substation, allowing for coverage of events in Centennial Plaza and along Owen Avenue, now designated as a small event location, and on top of B&W Hardware to provide views of South White Street.
“I apologize for anyone who was concerned about an invasion of privacy,” Crabtree said. “We were excited that WRAL had given us the opportunity to spotlight our downtown.”
Wake Forest officials asked WRAL for their cameras to be handled differently from other towns. “We asked them not to include our cameras on their website,” for one thing, Crabtree said, meaning the still pictures of Wake Forest will not be available for people to view on the WRAL site.
On Thursday the town also issued a statement setting out the parameters of the cameras’ use and how the pictures will not be available later.
- WRAL only uses the cameras to show video during newscasts, breaking news, and weather events which may be live-streamed on wral.com. The rest of the time, the cameras take still images according to a set schedule. Whereas most of WRAL’s other partner communities allow their cameras to take still shots every one to five minutes, Town officials asked WRAL to set Wake Forest’s cameras to grab still shots no more than once every hour. WRAL has informed the Town that its system is not set up to poll different cameras at different intervals. As a result, WRAL will not regularly post any images from the Wake Forest cameras on its webcams web page.
- A poster on a local Facebook forum mistakenly compared Wake Forest’s cameras to the one along Franklin Street in Chapel Hill that provides a 24/7 live image feed and can be manipulated by visitors to the WRAL webcams web page. Wake Forest’s cameras do not provide a live web feed and cannot be operated by anyone other than WRAL and Town staff. Furthermore, at no time did the Town plan to provide a 24/7 live feed for public access.
- Any time WRAL uses the cameras during its newscasts, that video will be available on its website for varying periods of time before being replaced with newer video. For example, video from Wake Forest’s cameras was shown on WRAL newscasts last evening, this morning, and midday today [Thursday, Sept. 14]. That video was available today for a brief time on the WRAL website. It has since been replaced by more recent footage obtained from cameras in other partnering communities.
- The Wake Forest cameras are pre-set to capture scenic views – not images of individuals.
- Finally, WRAL will only utilize video obtained from Wake Forest’s cameras in its coverage of news, weather, and special events in the downtown area. Again, the purpose of the cameras is not to focus on individuals, but rather to highlight the charm and vibrancy of downtown.
The Town of Wake Forest apologizes for any confusion and concern this initiative may have caused.