Debate Over Whether Surveillance Cameras Work!

Debate Over Whether Surveillance Cameras Work!
Posted by FoM on February 18, 1999 at 06:05:43 PT
Big brother is getting bigger!
Cincinnati, Since police installed a surveillance camera by her clothing shop, Cathy Barren has seen a huge change right at her front door.Gone are the groups of young men and boys who would stand around dealing and doing drugs, frightening away shoppers.
``Most times, you would have to cut through them all to get into the store,'' Ms. Barren said. ``It used to be the store smelled like marijuana.''That has changed since the city installed a video surveillance camera on Jan. 29, the last of five that are part of a pilot project. The sidewalk is clear these days and Ms. Barren is thrilled.``They're not lined up out there anymore. They've moved along,'' she said. ``I think it's a fantastic idea.''Cincinnati and other cities think it's an idea worth studying. In the last 17 months, Cincinnati has installed five cameras in areas where drug dealers and users tend to congregate, hoping to cut into their trade.Privacy advocates question whether the cameras are too intrusive. Police and businesses face a more bottom-line question: Do the cameras work?Critics, including some business operators, say the cameras don't stop drug problems but merely relocate them.``People just moved behind the camera,'' said Chong Kim, owner of a beauty supply store near Ms. Barren's shop.A Cincinnati Post story Monday noted that while Kim spoke, three men stood out of range of the surveillance camera and smoked marijuana at midmorning.Police said crime is down dramatically on the street where the first camera was installed in October 1997, but no reliable statistics are available. A University of Cincinnati criminal justice professor has been hired to study the program's effectiveness.Police cannot cite an instance of anyone arrested because they were seen on camera.City Councilman Phil Heimlich, who led the push for surveillance cameras, said they've been installed in neighborhoods that wanted them.``Where there are specific trouble spots in neighborhoods and criminals are making life miserable for the people who are living there, cameras can be a good thing,'' Heimlich said. ``Cameras should only go into neighborhoods where there's strong demand by the community.''A downtown business group also supported the surveillance project, which is being funded through community donations and a federal grant. Each of the five cameras cost about $20,000.Heimlich said businesses like the cameras because they reassure customers.``If you shop in a suburban mall, there are cameras all over the place,'' he said.The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio is alarmed by the cameras, noting there are few safeguards about how the tapes can be used.``It may be for legitimate law enforcement reasons, but we have no guarantee,'' said Gino Scarselli, associate legal director for the ACLU. ``Once something is recorded on tape, it can be used in a variety of ways.''Guidelines are vague about how Cincinnati will use the tapes. They're held for two weeks so the university professor can study whether the program is effective and should be expanded.``We're trying to gauge what type of impact the cameras are having,'' police Lt. Howard Rahtz said.
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