Walk in the downtown area of almost any city today and look up. You might even want to smile and wave because you are probably being recorded on a security camera systems. Cities and towns of all sizes are turning to video surveillance cameras as a way to help cut down on crime.
It isn’t just city police who are using security cameras. They are installed in schools, at sports stadiums, in public buildings, in hospitals, and even in your neighbor’s backyard. The cameras are really a sign of the times. Even safe neighborhoods aren’t so safe anymore, and everybody seems to be itching for a lawsuit. With a security camera keeping watch, identifying and catching a troublemaker got a lot easier.
Of course, not everyone is sold on the use of cameras to improve security. Privacy advocates say the eye in the sky (or on the lamp-post) is an invasion of your personal space. Most people aren’t doing anything wrong, so why should someone be recording them, just because they wanted to talk a walk along a city street? The ACLU, such as, has openly urged some communities like Lansing, Mich., to remove its security cameras because of privacy concerns.
Lansing’s officials said no to the ACLU, and the reason is pretty clear. Having security cameras patrolling the streets give police departments extra eyes (and sometimes ears, if the cameras have an audio-recording system).
Communities all over the country are feeling a budget pinch and many have had to downsize or reconfigure their law enforcement strategies. No, security cameras aren’t cheap, but a lot of the camera systems are installed with grants. A couple of cameras with an officer trained on the monitors at a command center can watch entire city blocks at once.
Many of the communities who have installed security systems have found that the cameras do deter crime, especially crimes like vandalism. They are useful for finding criminals after the fact, as well. Vancouver, such as, is one city that used video from security cameras to find people involved with downtown riots after the hockey team lost the Stanley Cup championship. Similar video surveillance was useful in making arrest in a number of college towns where students reacted poorly to sports results.
Security cameras work well in tandem with other security measures. Taking another headline from the news, in recent weeks, at least two babies avoided being kidnapped from the hospital, thanks to a layered security system. In one case, the security device on the baby’s leg triggered an alarm, and thanks to the security cameras, security officials were able to capture the potential kidnapper.
In the second case, the security device was already removed because the baby was being discharged from the hospital. It was the security cameras that provided the details that led police to find the alleged kidnapper and return the infant to the parents.
Even on the home front, security cameras are proving to be an important part of home protection. Obviously, you still have to lock your doors and windows because a security camera isn’t going to prevent a break in. But the cameras can keep track of who enters the house and when. Depending on the set up, you may be able to watch your security cameras from your office computer or your smartphone.
Another thing the cameras do is keep a visual record of the items in the house so you aren’t relying on memory if there is a break in (you may also be able to see what the robber carried out the door, as well as find the robber).
Cameras placed outside can often inadvertently offer a little extra protection for the neighborhood. A quick Google search on the term “security cameras” brings up news stories of police who were able to solve crimes thanks to a security camera trained on driveways or lawns, as well as the cameras in the home.
The beauty of the security camera as a layer to any security strategy is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money. A webcam and an old computer can easily give security inside the home. Camera systems are available along a very wide price spectrum.
So next time you see a security camera, relax. It isn’t your privacy being taken away; it is your security being protected.