CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Surveillance Cameras Watch Ideologies Clash

UPDATED: Here's another perspective from the SanFrancisco Chronicle: "Community, Not Just Technology, Needed in Crime Prevention"


San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced last week that the city will install 50 surveillance cameras in high-crime public housing projects around the city in attempts to to reduce the recent influx of violence. But in a society where surveillance cameras seem to have become ubiquitous, and in a major city that lags far behind other cities of its size in terms of camera presence, the Mayor's announcement has generated staunch criticism. 

This column criticizes the critics. Here's an excerpt:  "Several public officials have decried the use of the security devices as an infringement on civil liberties — no matter how many criminals they help catch. And those people with thick rap sheets aren't happy about them either.  I have always been against more government interference in personal privacy, but that is hardly a big issue here. Nor is the use of surveillance cameras in general. They are not being installed in living rooms — just in the places where a lot of innocent people are terrorized.

San Francisco, reputedly one of the nation’s most technologically advanced towns, lags well behind big cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles in using the electronic eyes as a crime deterrent. Those cities have had success in reducing crime — which is why they have put cameras in hot spots. Some San Francisco officials have their knickers in a twist over a desire to install less than 100. Supervisor Jake McGoldrick called the installation of surveillance cameras a “case of mistaken strategy...The mayor says he’s doing 50 other [things] to fight crime and I think he should focus on the other 49,” McGoldrick said.

And while I can applaud his unshakeable ideological stance, it flies in the face of reason. Surveillance cameras are so ubiquitous in our daily lives, we’ve come to take them for granted. There is hardly a place where anyone can go today where they aren’t electronically monitored — department stores, supermarkets, ATMs, elevators. In a post-9/11 world, is anyone really objecting that cameras have become a security staple on transportation lines, including BART and Muni?" More from The Examiner. . . [Michele Berry]

Civil Rights, Law Enforcement, Search and Seizure, Technology | Permalink

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