In recent years, some local governments have sought to increase security by placing surveillance cameras in public areas. American City & County recently asked readers of its e-mail newsletter if local governments should install surveillance cameras in public spaces and whether there should be any restrictions on their use. The majority of respondents favored the use of surveillance cameras at least to some degree. Some responses are reprinted below.
“I feel if notices are posted warning of possible camera use in the public areas, this should be enough to justify their use. I know that such use can be invaluable, proven [by] several cases in Pinole, Calif., where [camera] use is common. In one instance, a person was assaulted and killed, but the incident was captured on video, which led to the arrest of the killer. With the compound threats of street crime, out-of-control citizens (road rage), terrorists, etc., we need all the help we can muster to protect life and property.”
— H.D. Williamson, supervisor, General Service Department, Contra Costa County, Calif.
“I am in support of placing cameras in certain public places to enhance security. I also support cameras at red lights to help in the enforcement of traffic laws. However, I do understand the opposition to cameras and the possible ramifications against our civil liberties. But, if the cameras are in a public area, not aimed at personal property, then there should be no erosion of civil liberties. It is a complicated issue.”
— Robert Ratliff, engineering technician, Jersey Village, Texas
“If there were major security threats that it would help lessen, then the idea has merit. However, I fear that all it will do is identify petty criminals and traffic congestion, while the major security threats that are hidden from obvious view and identification will be unabated. It will be costly and subject to abuse. The average citizen would suffer the most abuse. Lighting levels at night make people feel safer, but studies suggest that it does not deter crime. I imagine the same will be said one day of surveillance cameras.”
— Scott Hahn, city manager, Cordova, Alaska