Thursday, May 17, 2012

So Are Surveillance Cameras In The Public Square Good Or Bad?

This bit from The Atlantic is interesting: It seems that Portland, Oregon Police want to install video surveillance cameras in several high crime neighborhoods in an effort to deter crime. The part I found interesting comes from those who are opposing this plan.
"We hope that, one, they are a deterrent, but two, we can deploy our resources more efficiently," Simpson says. "I think most of the point is to make it obvious that you're being filmed. And if that's a deterrent for people, great. It certainly won't be a deterrent for everybody."

But others argue that the cameras aren't needed and they won't do any good.

"Our general position is it's a waste of resources," ACLU of Oregon Executive Director David Fidanque told The Oregonian. "Video surveillance does not prevent crime, and it's not necessarily helpful in solving unsolved crimes."

Dan Handelman agrees. He's a representative of Portland Copwatch, a citizen-run organization promoting police accountability, and he worries that the footage collected by the cameras and their ability to be tilted and zoomed gives too much data to the police.
What's ironic is that both the ACLU and Copwatch have long advocated the rights of citizens to videotape the police in order to deter or document police abuses. In fact, if you go to the Copwatch website, they have images of video cameras on their flyers. The ACLU has information on their website like this herehere and here about the public's right to videotape the police.

So which is it? Are surveillance cameras ineffective or are they "an independent record of what took place in a particular incident, free from accusations of bias, lying or faulty memory."

Do you have surveillance cameras in public areas in your jurisdiction? Have you found them to be an effective deterrent for certain types of criminal activity?

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