When Big Brother in the form of security cameras began appearing on what seemed to be every street corner in the city, well, it seemed a little creepy. I mean, does the government and law enforcement really need the tools to monitor us to that level?
Actually, yeah, I guess they do.
As events this week in Boston have shown, cameras can put investigators on the right track while the trail is hot. It’s debatable how much longer it would have taken without images to identify the bombers in Boston — if they would have ever been identified at all.
“At events like Boston, you can run all the security sweeps you want,” Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said. “I’m sure they did just that. But there’s nothing you can do to stop it if a guy comes along and drops a backpack.
“But once that happens, it’s incredible how much faster you can track down the bad guy if you have cameras. They might be still waiting for someone to call and say they saw it, if that call ever comes at all. We don’t want to live in a police state, but cameras give us a birds-eye view that we never had before.”
More than 100 cameras installed for last summer’s Republican National Convention are still in use in Tampa. That doesn’t include private security cameras that seem to be everywhere. Images from one of them led investigators to the arrest of a suspect last November in an attack on a woman in the Fort Brooke parking garage.
“Because of the cameras, we were able to capture the guy, literally, within an hour of the crime,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said. “We were able to watch him leave the garage and dispose of his shirt in a waste can. We were able to track where he was going. Those cameras were as good as any eyewitness.”
Buckhorn, obviously, is a huge fan of cameras.
The ACLU is not and has protested their use.
Don’t generalize over that comparison. That doesn’t mean Buckhorn wants to record your every move, and it doesn’t mean the ACLU wants to give cover to terrorists. There are legitimate privacy issues in having cameras standing constant, silent guard.
It’s fair to ask what happens next if we morph from the land of the free to the home of the watched. But then something like Boston happens, and, well, I’m glad the cameras were there.
“What we have seenthis week justifies everything we have done over the last year and a half, not only in preparation of the RNC, but also the ongoing use of those cameras downtown and in critical areas,” Buckhorn said.
“The combination of technology being readily available and the fact there is no expectation of privacy in a public space, makes it clear this type of technology could and should be used. Do I think it’s the new normal? I absolutely do. Those folks who think we still enjoy a ‘Leave It To Beaver’ atmosphere in the post-9/11 world are sadly mistaken,” he said.
As much as I wish he was wrong about that, I believe we all know he isn’t. And if cameras help get these creeps off the street before they can kill again, heck, let’s buy more.