Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cameras Watching Stamford Residents?

I only clicked on this Advocate article because it mentioned my home state, but I think it addresses what could be a hot local topic: SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS IN STAMFORD NEIGHBORHOODS!

Stamford is one of a few cities that are considering putting cameras in high crime neighborhoods. Philip Berns, a Stamford rep., is speaking at a conference in Va. about issues that arose when cameras were proposed in Stamford.

When the proposal was discussed in Stamford, there was opposition. (I don't know by whom; the article just said "opponents." Maybe it was board members.) Arguments against included concerns that cameras could easily be abused and used to observe and gather info on even those who aren’t breaking laws. Not everyone in a high-crime area is a criminal, as I pointed out in my post about Southfield. Those who supported the cameras admitted that cameras are useless unless law enforcement can keep up.

The Board of Reps. approved the cameras for use in February, but the cameras don’t appear to be coming to Stamford soon. Board members haven’t come up with general policies and procedures on how the cameras will be used. The article includes what I think is a scathing/funny comment about Berns by Public Safety and Health Committee Chairman Richard Lyons : "He's served 26 months, and now he's an expert on what works in our community? We haven't even used the cameras yet. I question the issues and ideas someone can partake when they haven't even been used yet in our community." I love the drama, love it. But, much like Whole Foods, this is something Stamford residents need to speak out against if we’re against it.

Here’s what I think. I’m against crime, duh, but I’m not sure cameras are the right way to go. You have to admit that FILMING PEOPLE IN THEIR NEIGHBORHOODS is rife with potential abuse. Sure, they’re filming “crime,” but they’re also going to film people arguing with a spouse, kids sneaking home at ungodly hours, and people having affairs. Can’t you imagine a rogue cop using info about people’s private lives to threaten and coerce them into doing things? If I knew a cop had info that could destroy my personal and professional life, I might just be tempted to do anything he told me to.

What kind of crime are we talking about anyway? I assume the crimes they’re looking for are drug-dealing and… car theft? I have no idea. I don’t imagine there are a lot of assaults taking place in public places in Stamford. And, if they’re only filming public areas, like streets and parks, don’t you think people will just move their crime indoors? What are these cameras for, exactly? Anyone? Anyone? Do any of you have a better understanding of this than I do?

By the way- Berns is speaking at a U.S Department of Homeland Security conference, about ways to protect privacy rights. I’m NOT sure how crime in Stamford threatens the security of our “Homeland,” (could the language GET anymore old-fashioned?), but I’m no expert. I’m sure our government agencies know what they are doing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I tried to comment yesterday, but something in the system went wrong.

I was wondering, are they planning to use the cameras to record activity or just as surveillance, sort of like the cops doing a drive-by? I don't think I'd be against that as it might make it easier for the police to be where they need to be, when they need to be.

I suppose it all boils down to how useful the cameras would be. I'd be interested in knowing how much of the city's crime takes place "on the streets" as opposed to behind closed doors.