Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Public surveillance cameras a godsend for solving crimes

Some people are opposed to the use of public surveillance cameras. They think it’s a step toward Big Brother watching its citizens and gathering information on them.
But when a crime like the Boston Marathon bombings happens, we thank our lucky stars for having photos and video that capture the perpetrators. Video and still images in that case helped to identify the terrorist suspects and likely prevented more bombings.
Cameras in public places are a fact of life in the 21st Century -- not just government security cameras, but surveillance cameras belonging to private businesses and homeowners. Then you have people with their cellphone cameras. Cameras are everywhere in public capturing both newsworthy images and the mundane.
I don’t think security cameras are a great deterrent in preventing crime. But they make police work a hell of a lot easier after the fact. We’ve all seen enough movies and TV shows where the first thing detectives do is gather all the surveillance footage they can get. It’s the logical first step. Cameras are better than eyewitnesses.
When a child goes missing or terrorists strike, we want to see what happened at the scene.
Surveillance cameras were used to ID Boston Marathon bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev. (See articles by Gizmodo and the Daily Mail.)
In January, a 5-year-old girl was kidnapped from a Philadelphia elementary school and the incident was caught on video, according to the Daily Mail.
In July 2011, video surveillance cameras helped capture “Butcher of Brooklyn” Levi Aron for the murder of 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky.
I’ve written a couple of times about my support for public surveillance cameras. In February 2010, I listed a bunch of major crimes solved by having images captured by such cameras. In May 2010, I wrote about how the foiled Times Square bomber was caught on video.
Could cameras be abused by government authorities? Yes. But they also could be a check and balance against government abuse and misconduct, such as violent cops.

Photo: Surveillance photo that helped catch the Boston Marathon bombers.

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