Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Smile, You're On Candid Camera

Police in British Columbia want to increase surveillance cameras, and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association says this is an infringement of our rights. I think both sides are right. It makes me feel a bit creepy to know that my every move is being watched, the minute I step outside my house. On the other hand, if I'm not doing anything wrong or illegal, why should I care? And then the question becomes -- "define wrong or illegal". And around it goes. However, if it had not been for surveillance cameras, that very clean-cut young medical student who is alleged to have murdered Julissa Brisman, may never have been caught. He still has to stand trial, of course, and be proven guilty, but he is the main suspect, having been captured on film. How many lives have been saved by such quick police work with the help of 21st Century technical assistance.

On the other hand, the police have had the surveillance and video cameras turned on themselves as well, and often they don't like it. If it had not been for the Paul Pritchard's video tape of the tasering death of Robert Dziekanski, that event would have been covered up, and the Braidwood Inquiry would never have taken place. As it turns out, four of the RCMP officers lied about what took place. The RCMP confiscated Paul Pritchard's video with a promise to return it within 48 hours. The next day they told Pritchard they would not be returning the video, and he hired a lawyer to get the video returned. It has now become proof that Robert Dziekanski was tasered four times, and one RCMP officer kneeled on Dziekanski's neck. Coincidentally, tapes from the surveillance cameras in the area were removed shortly afterwards.

Recently three off-duty policeman were charged with beating and robbing a newspaper deliveryman outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Vancouver. The whole event was caught on camera.

Women in particular are vulnerable at such places as Skytrain stations, bank machines, bus stops. I don't have a problem with video surveillance cameras in these places. I think if we aren't doing something wrong, our civil liberties are not necessarily being infringed. In my opinion, the yin and the yang of it is that more of the "bad guys" will be caught with their pants down ... so to speak ... because we don't always know who the bad guys are. They can be the police, or that clean-cut medical student.


Laura Doyle said...

It seems to be a matter of priority but deciding which is more important is difficult. Safety or Freedom?

Thomas Jefferson once said "The man who would choose security over freedom deserves neither."

The problem with being watched by the government is that a governing body is often quite open to corruption, greed, and collusion, just like any other human being. With the wrong agenda and the right assimilating techniques, it could be devestatingly dangerous. Imagine if video surveillance had been available to Hitler. Or pre-abolition plantation owners.

The thing is, people will never learn to act better by it the actual force or the threat of force. The initial will to be better must originate in the mind of the individual for any lasting moral change. Henry Miller, tortured genius that he was, said "whatever needs to be maintained through force is doomed."

I guess I've opined enough. : ) {Climbing down from soapbox, now}

Jo said...

Starlene, you know, I agree with you. I am a very private person, and the thought of being "watched" makes me feel very uncomfortable. If that medical student truly is a psychopath, surveillance cameras may not necessarily have stopped him -- just made him more careful. It's a real dichotomy, isn't it?

Patsy said...

Jo, I just now took a picture of my SURVEILLANCE MONITOR here in my upstairs office.

This is what I see if I at at my computer and I turn my head to the right and look up about 5 feet: Click (or copy-paste) this URL to see the picture.)

I have a similar video monitor in my kitchen, at a spot that I can see from many angles.

There are two closed-circuit video cameras in front of my house placed up high aimed at my front door and at the driveway and sidewalk.

Anybody who looks suspicious, I do not answer my doorbell. Anytime I need assistance, I press two keys and a siren goes off in my garage.


I realize that your post is not about home security surveilance, but there is a spill-over of attitude about surveillance that I think is legitimate.

Anyone breaking the law gets caught or gets caught faster if taped on a surveillance camera.

Anyone speeding through a red light gets taped and fined.

As far as people not breaking a law but just behaving suspiciously, well, that's the downside, but I consider it the lesser of two evils.

By the way, I am talking about cameras in PUBLIC PLACES. In those places one does not have the presumption of privacy.

However, in public bathrooms etc one does have the presumption of privacy, and a video camera should not be placed there.

What about a man who is seeing another woman and they are videotaped on the street holding hands? That becomes interesting because we then leaving the area of LEGALITY and entering the realm of MORALITY. And people are free to debate that issue.

~~Lorna in Southern California

Patsy said...

Now that I have read Starlene's post, I will comment.Starlene, you wrote, ”
The thing is, people will never learn to act better by it the actual force or the threat of force,” and this is not so.I have a great guy supporting my opinion: Thomas Hobbes.

Force or threat of force is a terrific deterrent for the vast majority of us. Without a traffic light, there would be more people running reds and jumping yellows.

How many times have you heard a kid say, “If I do that my dad'll kill me!”

About Henry Miller: He was a man who wanted to live by his own whims and I believe that his philosophy flowed from who he was.

If it were true that we do not need force or thread of force, we would eliminate the police department and work on making people want to do the right thing, and that scares the wits out of me.

~~~ Lorna

ivan said...

Ah, Thomas Hobbes.

"Life is nasty, brutish and short."

...I am nasty, brutish and short. :)

Laura Doyle said...

Well Lorna, all those points you mentioned were very persuasive and I've totally changed my mind.

Nah, I'm just kidding. But wouldn't that be funny? Whatever floats your boat, I guess. I still think laws are like band-aids which don't address the root cause.

Scoobyloves2004 said...

I have mixed feelings on this subject. On one hand, I do feel cameras are needed in public places like banks, stores, or anywhere money is changing hands. My husband is an RSM for a cell phone company and his store has been robbed several times. If it wern't for the cameras, they would never have been caught. On the other hand, I don't think cameras should be used in places like neighborhoods, or anywhere people need privacy. (restrooms, changing rooms etc.) However, if you're not doing anything wrong, what's the big deal?

Jeannette StG said...

It's still a toss up for me, Jo. No matter how many security cameras, people will still find a way around it to do their crime.

Also, I believe that in the end justice will pevail
(because I am a believer, I think that blessings are not poured on your life by hurting another person - at some point in time we all will have to give an account of our deeds).

Mary Ellen said...

This is very much a mixed bag, and like you pointed out, in some cases--if not for the use of security camera's, many criminals (including police) would have gotten away with murder.

Personally, I've gotten used to camera's in areas such as all night grocery stores, banks, etc. However, the new use of these camera's on most of the street intersections in our area are getting ridiculous. If there is a red light, and a person's car goes even an inch over the white line before stopping, their license plate is recorded on camera and a hefty fine is mailed to you. This has never happened to me because I'm aware where the camera's are and make sure that I stop at least a foot before the line, but many people who don't live in the area may stop just over the line. This is nothing more than a shakedown for money for the municipality.

On another of our Democratic Senators (Harmon)has been busted from an apparent illegal deal she made with a lobbyist. She's crying foul that she was wire tapped, and yet...she is one of those who voted FOR the President to wire tap anyone they want. I guess what's good for the goose is not good for the gander, or so she thinks.

It's the same with the police who don't like being's all well and good until THEY are busted for doing something illegal.

Like Starlene said, the problem with being watched by government is that they are usually the corrupt ones and can't be trusted with this authority.

~Brittainy said...

Very Well Put article! If you are in public areas where there is no privacy anyways (such as a park, courtroom, street) Where someone could have just as easily stumbled upon and witnessed the behavior, than what is the big deal. It catches criminals and dirty cops, prevents shoplifting.

Patsy said...

Clarification of my earlier Comment:

When I said that I had surveillance ”here in my upstairs office,“ I meant, here AT HOME in my upstairs BEDROOM which serves as my OFFICE. :-) :-)

I am retired — no office for me.

~~ Lorna from Southern California in her East-facing office upstairs.

DUTA said...

I am in favor of cameras. The problem is that when something happens, the securiy man doesn't bother to check it unless it's something big and of public interest.Once I had something stolen from me and wasn't sure wether it happened at the bakery or at the supermarket. The security man in both places was reluctant to act.

jackc50 said...

i think most people would choose safety over freedom. the idea that criminals can be tracked down using video is very appealing. it's a sad commentary on modern life that we have to flood public places with cameras in hope that they will deter bad behavior but it is a sign of the times and it's not going away anytime soon. just smile for the camera and wonder about who is watching who....jc

Bagman and Butler said...

I'm not sure I have a dog in this fight because I'm not sure cameras or anything else really makes me secure - just gives me a sense of it. And as for cameras and freedom, I figure that anybody that is bored enough to watch anything I'm doing is welcome to watch.

muthu said...

Jo i think Cameras aren't going to stop any crime which are usually done in moments of desperation rather than in planned manner. (If its going to be a planned crime, then he is going to plan about the camera too... so the camera becomes a waste in a planned crime.)

But it gives people a sense of security and a chance to apprehend the people with violent tendencies (nobody ever knows what kind of shit these went through that made them such psychos, rather than jailing them, helping them out with some kind of shrink would be better.)

And camera is ok, until they start to put one in front of our homes, I think. Things always slowly tend to go over the line.... I think....

what do you say?

Kathy's Klothesline said...

No matter what your opinion may be, I don't think the cameras are going away. I have them in my park, aimed at the night check-in.... I can't say that they have acted as a deterrent. Those inclined to steal usually find a way to do so. But maybe it helps keep the honest people honest. They are a useful tool for law enforcement. I don't agree with sending out traffic citations for stopping 'over the line' at traffic lights; but as with everything in life we take the good with the bad. Gee, Jo, you sure know how to open up a can of worms!

Avril Fleur said...

I think if you have nothing to hide and you're minding your own business and doing nothing wrong, then you have nothing to worry about. If you're a criminal, then beware! You're being watched! I am in full favour of the cameras. Here in Ontario there is a missing 8 year old girl and the only major lead police have is the girl walking away with a woman, which was caught on a surveillance camera of a local high school. It could make the very difference in her being recovered alive. I say if it's going to help protect our kids I'm 110% for it!

Deedee said...

Cameras being everywhere has become part of our daily life and I for one, take it for granted. The thought of being wiretapped by the government bothered me more than the presence of cameras everywhere. I guess if you are not doing anything wrong, they don't bother you much, but it is like Big Brother is watching.

Country Girl said...

Safety or freedom? I wish we didn't have to choose one over the other.

Jo said...

Lorna, yes, when do surveillance cameras cross the line? I guess it's like paparazzi -- when do they cross the line? As far as cameras being a deterrent, I think the fear of breaking the law and getting caught is enough of a deterrent for most people. It certainly is for me.

Ivan, somewhere in my father's book collection I have a biography of Thomas Hobbes. I'm going to haul it out and read it.

Starlene, I do think we need laws, and we need enforcement of them, but we do need to get to the rood cause of why some people find it necessary to break them. It's a societal thing, isn't it?

Arley, yes, I think in places that are deemed private, surveillance cameras would be an awful breach of privacy, and definitely would be going too far.

Jeanette, yes, Karma. You know, there have been three little girls abducted in the States and Canada recently whose last moments were captured on video cameras. If the cameras had only been able to pick up who abducted them, they might have been caught. So, I am of two minds about this too.

Mary Ellen, absolutely! In the case of the police in Vancouver, they confiscated the surveillance tapes and cameras. I'm beginning to think perhaps police are corrupt too. And yes, I have been living on the dark side of the moon. :-)

Brittainy, yes, shoplifting is my pet peeve! We all pay more for it. I have watched shoplifts brazenly walk out of a store.

DUTA, yes! They erase the blasted things after a couple of days, and what good is that!?

Jackc50, "just smile for the camera and wonder about who is watching." You're so right! Smile, you're on Candid Camera. :-)

Butler and Bagman, *chuckle* Me too! Anyone who watches me will fall asleep reallllly quickly. *heh*

Muthu, oh yes, I agree. A lot of crimes are committed in a moment of passion, and people are not thinking clearly. However, it does help to capture them later, such as the medical student who murdered Julissa Brisman.

Kathy, *chuckle* I do like to mix things up a bit. And no, I don't agree with traffic cameras, but in places such as yours, if anything really awful happened, at least it would be recorded on camera.

Avril, "I think if you have nothing to hide and you're minding your own business and doing nothing wrong, then you have nothing to worry about." I couldn't agree more. I feel sick about that little girl who was abducted. I think that is every parent's worst nightmare!

Deedee, the wiretapping thing really bothers me too, because that is a huge invasion of privacy. It goes way past the line of public safety.

CountryGirl, yes, but I guess unfortunately that has now become the choice.

Unknown said...

I certainly prefer safety. As you said. If you are just living a normal life than what do you have to worry about. Besides does someone actually watch all that footage? Probably only when there is an incident. Not every nook and cranny needs a camera really. Just the odvious places, atm, bus, train, parking lots are a good one too.

Jo said...

Flowrgirl1, yes. And I like the fact that the medical student who murdered that girl was caught so quickly, by publishing his picture from the surveillance camera. Was his privacy invaded? If it caught a murderer and saved other lives, I don't think so.

Duncan Mitchel said...

I think the case you mention, Jo, undermines your argument. The evidence against the police came not from surveillance cameras but from the video taken by a private citizen -- right? And you say that the police had removed the tapes from the surveillance cameras, presumably to cover up their misdeeds.

The same has been true in Britain, as you've no doubt heard: during the G20 protests it was a private citizen who got the video of the police attack on Ian Tomlinson, a passerby, which resulted in his death. And later, at a memorial for Tomlinson, it was not a surveillance camera which caught a cop slugging a protester and then clubbing her with her baton -- it was a citizen. You're right, the police don't like being watched and recorded if they can't control the tapes; but if they're not doing anything wrong, they have nothing to hide. 8-)

TheChicGeek said...

I think that the cameras are a good thing. They can help to stop crime and solve them after they have been committed. I don't like having my picture taken running a red light, but I'm much less likely to do knowing they're there, thus making the streets safer. Good outweighs the bad :D

Jo said...

Promiscuous Reader, the main gist of my post is about the medical student who was caught on surveillance camera leaving the hotel where he had murdered the girl. Without that tape, he would be on to his next victim very quickly. In the case of Robert Dziekanski, the police removed the surveillance camera tapes, because they knew they had been caught -- by the cameras. And you're right, if they're not doing anything wrong, they have nothing to hide.

TheChicGeek, yes, I think the main thing with cameras is that they solve crimes after they have been committed. In Vancouver, any crimes caught on camera are broadcast on the 6:00 news, et voila! the perpetrators are caught.

Firefly the Travel Guy said...

I believe cameras in public spaces is something that is needed. Here in PE we have them in some areas, but half the time they either aren't working, aren't monitored or doesn't have a tape recording it.

meggie said...

I thoroughly agree with you. It is amazing what people do, when they feel they can get away with it, & any aid in stopping crime-particularly against other humans, & animals, is well worth having.

Lilly said...

Jo, I think that its a fine line between safety and freedom but I woud err on the side of safety I think. I dont see cameras as being force as such. If I am not doing anything wrong then I am fine with that. I think most people would be oblivious to them. Personally I am more affronted by Google Earth which has pictures of peoples homes - do you have it there? Its frightening to me and quite dangerous for many reasons! And Google is more of big brother than any seems to me.

the walking man said...

I don't like camera's everywhere. That they have been proven useful in providing evidence of a crime after the crime has been committed is beyond doubt van also be doctored to say anything the government wants it to say. Spend the money putting more preventative measures in place...not providing evidence after the fact.

divineGirl said...

a fine line between freedom or security... no one likes being watched all along.... surveillance is fine enough at places supposed to be surveyed - but a totah non-no otherwise!

Miss_Nobody said...

I guess I have mixed feelings about this.I guess you have to have cameras at SOMEPLACES,but if I knew I was being watched,that would freak me out,even if I'm whistling down the road,reading a newspaper..anything.
Oh and just wantedto say that you have been tagged at

Paula Slade said...

It is a definite balancing act between safety and civil liberties. Like yourself Jo, I agree that at times it feels a bit "creepy" but at other times more secure. It is unfortunate that we live in an era where these precautions need to be in place.