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Surveillance network in polygamous towns may have 60 cameras
View Surveillance Cameras of Short Creek in a larger map
News continues to trickle out about the security cameras in southern Utah's twin polygamous towns, and now it looks like the mysterious surveillance network may be even more extensive than previously thought.
At least that's according to Guy Timpson, who said Wednesday evening that he helped operate the cameras in 2010, when he was a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. According to Timpson, there may be as many as 60 cameras scattered throughout the community, considerably more than the 29 we spotted for our original story.
As part of last week's report on the cameras, I got in touch with Timpson, who lives in the Short Creek area and left the FLDS church in 2010. Timpson initially said he wasn't comfortable being quoted for a story due to a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the cameras.
But after talking to KUTV Channel 2 News for a report that aired Wednesday, Timpson told me his legal counsel had given him the go ahead to speak on the record.
What he had to say was both remarkable and confirmed much of what we already reported.
According to Timpson, he spent about four months running the cameras before he became disillusioned with the church and left.
The cameras are operated through a central control room in the FLDS's Leroy S. Johnson meetinghouse, Timpson said. The room also controls gates and doors on FLDS properties.
When Timpson was working the cameras, members of the FLDS church took shifts operating the system 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Timpson said that in 2010, two men worked "four days on, three days off" watching the community. The cameras are high powered and can zoom in on license plates and faces. Another camera sits high above the meetinghouse on a flag pole and spins 360 degrees at all times.
"We could see what people were saying just by reading lips if you were good enough," he recalled.
In 2010, there were between 30 and 40 cameras, Timpson said. He estimates that today there are at least 60. The cameras are high powered and were used to watch William E. Jessop, who left the church and formed his own congregation, and Willie Jessop, a former spokesman for the church who also abandoned it. Timpson said the cameras were also used to spy on families in the community. Visitors are certainly watched, he added.
Timpson went on to say that the FLDS church has access to cameras on city property.