Good morning, Netizens...
Smile, you're on candid camera!
The Spokane Police Department recently installed several surveillance cameras similar to the one in this picture, purportedly to monitor the activities of people in Riverfront Park over the Fourth of July celebration. It is not entirely clear from what little has been said about the cameras whether they will be taken down once they have been used for the Fourth of July, or whether they will remain in service for the foreseeable future.
The question that remains is how legal is it to use cameras such as these to monitor the activities of citizens without a search warrant? Like most arguments of this kind, there are two sides to the issue.
The police maintain that use of such cameras are both a strong crime deterrent. In Dallas, Texas, for example, when cameras were installed in a high-crime area of downtown, crime in Dallas' business district was reduced by 28% in their first year, according to the Austin, Texas Statesman. Several other examples are readily available of similar camera installations, and in each case, considerable crime prevention numbers are used to justify their use.
On the other hand, the ACLU position papers state emphatically the use of surveillance cameras is a violation of civil liberties, particularly when the cameras are abused. According to one ACLU paper, cameras are more frequently used for leering at attractive women on the street than preventing crime. We had an occurrence of that taking place here in Spokane, involving cameras installed in the U.S. Court House being used for spying on women in a nearby apartment complex.
The question remains thus: are surveillance cameras a violation of our civil liberties or should they be allowed as a deterrent against criminal activity?