by Jim McLaughlin
In recent news, the Springfield Township police department announced a program to escalate their use of surveillance cameras by inviting their use and networking camera owners together with the police department in some strange, Orwellian scenario. This is a direct violation of privacy, and it is ironic that a community so often proud of its individual freedoms would permit the use of surveillance systems.
The ACLU has studied the use of surveillance cameras and found:
a) Video surveillance has NOT [my emphasis] been proven effective,
b) Use of camera systems is susceptible to abuse,
c) Camera use lacks limits or controls, and
d) Video surveillance will have a chilling effect on public life.
To quote the ACLU: “Like any intrusive technology, the benefits of deploying public video cameras must be balanced against the costs and dangers. This technology
(a) has the potential [to] change the core experience of going out in public in America because of its chilling effect on citizens,
(b) carries very real dangers of abuse and “mission creep,” and
(c) would not significantly protect us…”
We do not “deter crime” or “encourage overall public safety”, the words of Officer Andrew Graff, by also violating our privacy. Cameras should be avoided unless truly justified with prior public acknowledgement and acceptance, and every camera needs to be clearly marked visibly from a distance at least as great as the camera can see or recognize someone.
This overly militaristic county sees everything as an opportunity to use force or military tactics to solve problems. It’s not so. Because we can doesn’t mean we should. The unnecessary use of surveillance needs to stop.