Law Enforcement Cameras Are Not An Invasion Of Privacy Essay

In its "Where America Stands" series, CBS News is looking at a broad spectrum of issues facing this country in the new decade.

Most law enforcement experts will tell you nothing beats having cops on the beat when it comes to fighting crime. Police officers can't be everywhere. Now, they don't have to be - thanks to some high-tech help.

Every minute a car is stolen. Every day across the country 44 people are murdered and nearly 3,800 are victims of violent crimes. While crime usually rises during a recession, that's not the case now. Nationwide, violent crimes are down 5.5 percent. Crimes like murder declined 7.2 percent, robbery 8.1 percent, motor vehicle theft down 17.2 percent.

Law enforcement officials say the increased use of high-tech tools to fight crime is a big reason why.

From the operations center of the Office of Emergency Communications in Chicago "48 Hours" correspondent Erin Moriarty reports officials keep watch over the 232 square mile urban area with a massive network of cameras, creating a virtual eye in the sky. Officials refuse to give actual figures, but some estimate the number of publicly and privately owned cameras targeting Chicago to be around 15,000.

Nick Benton, a Chicago paramedic assigned to the operation center, said they can "Zoom in up to 32 times optically, and up to 184 times digitally."

"We can get license plates. I'm not going to pull up a specific license plate," he added. "But yes, you can actually zoom in and very clearly see their license plate."

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City officials were keeping a close eye on crowds gathering for a Tea Party protest.

Can you pick out faces of those at the demonstration?

"We are very strict on how we use the cameras," Benton said. "We never zoom in on windows when they are open. We will never look into buildings and we are actually very careful if we zoom in on people's faces specifically."

Jim Harper of the Cato Institutesays the problem with surveillance cameras and technology is they have a spotty record of preventing crime. Instead, he says they are an invasion of privacy.

People in most cities are probably captured on cameras daily, if not multiple times a day," Harper said. "As these cameras network together, and they as they are better capable at recognizing individual faces, people will realize just how they are being watched."

Harper says the danger is when videos are released of individuals who are not actually involved in a crime. Remember the nationally broadcast video of a man changing his shirt - because officials first believed he could be the Times Square bomber.

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"There are no absolutes here," Harper said. "The cameras are helpful in some instances - harmful in other instances if they've led us all astray."

But there is likely to be a demand for even more surveillance cameras. Officials say the solution then is ever more sophisticated equipment that catches criminals in the act.

911 operators in Chicago can turn on any surveillance camera within 150 feet of an emergency call. So when an operator received a call that a Salvation Army bell ringer was helping himself to the collection bucket - the cops were called in.

The brain of the video surveillance system is computer software called "analytics." It allows operators to set up a virtual perimeter around buildings. Once someone or something crosses a virtual line the computer sends an alert to an official on-duty.

Chicago Police commander John Lewin runs the information services department. He points to mobile cameras called PODS (police operation devices) which allows officers to watch high crime neighborhoods in real time. Using these PODS, police were able to catch one man as he attempted to burglarize a home.

Moriarty asked, "Are you concerned that officers will rely too much on technology and not do the regular foot work?"

"No," Lewin replied. "As with any technology, none of these things are the magic bullet - pardon the pun. They are just going to be another tool in the toolbox to help officers do their jobs."

The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches. Americans will soon have to decide when this goes too far.

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  • Safety for the public

    The only reason lake enforcement cameras are around are for the safety of you, the public, and the officers. Without cammers many people can be blamed for things they did not do because there is no proof that they did not do it. You could be beaten by a police officer and you would have no proof but with cammeras there is proof that it was done, along with officers who are accused of crimes they did not commit just so someone can get a payday. You should thank cammeras, they may save your butt one day.

  • How can we support testimony in court?

    Law enforcement professionals are constantly scrutinized my the public and the media, that they have no choice but to protect themselves. Police footage is not public and is only used as needed in court. You can even buy the tape from your county attorneys office for your personal viewing. Officers, deputies and troopers alike need this for their protection, because some people cant trust a licensed peace officer to do their job. If you have a problem with it, hey! You go right ahead and record it yourself, just do it respectfully.

  • Sometimes Not All The Time

    Cameras should only really be placed in public places, we shouldn't have our homes invaded by the government because of what they think is going on we don't need the privacy of our homes invaded before you know it they will be tracking all citizens...Who wants that? Certainly not me. I hope you wouldn't either?

  • That depends on what the cameras are doing.

    That depends on where the cameras are and do they have a warrant. If the camera is on public location and is directed to shoot the streets and not to people's homes, then they are not considered invasion of privacy. If the camera-operatoris an agent of police and has a warrant to pry a private home, then the prying is an agent of police and has a warrant to pry a private home, then the prying is part of an ongoing investigation and must aim to a legal action to catch acriminal.(http://wiki.Answers.Com/Q/Are_law_enforcement_cameras_an_invasion_of_privacy#slide=7&article=Are_law_enforcement_cameras_an_invasion_of_privacy)

  • These camera's should only be solving crimes

    These cameras are put on these PUBLIC areas, and they are there for your own safety. The things that are recorded are not made public. Furthermore, there's no need for you to go to that public place, where the cameras are located. If you don't want to be filmed go somewhere else.

  • The cameras don't invade.And its simple...

    The cameras don't invade privacy because they are mostly put in public places. Right? Well how could one expect to have privacy out in public? Its called the public because, it's not private and its out in the open where everyone is free to be. Honestly, the only time i'm worried about cameras is when i'm doing something naughty or unusual.

  • The Government has valid reasons

    If you do not want the government seeing something that you're doing, then you probably should not be doing it. There are many probable causes as to why they feel need to watch us. Think logically, why would the government would otherwise watch the American people? The governmental body has better things to do with their life. Don't just automatically assume that everything the contains the word 'government' is bad. That is not the case. Open your mind to the facts and realize that there are many good reasons why they would be compelled to monitor us. Just one example would be the following: the drug and alcohol abuse is out of control in this country and possibly monitoring the suspected areas would cut down the number of drug abuse.

  • It Not Invading

    I think it okay. The world is more safer to me with cameras. It not invading anything to me unless there in your house which I haven't heard of until I read the yes comments. But most of these cameras are in public areas were people can see them. So I see no problem.

  • No

    I don’t think that the government having cameras are an invasion of privacy because they are out in open places not on private property and in bathrooms. So they are not invading privacy they are just trying to protect people from crimes being committed. Because if a crime was comitted they would have it on tape and it would help to catch the person or did it.

  • Not really

    As long as the law enforcement cameras are placed within public places then no they do not invade the privacy of citizens. I do not do anything in public that I wouldn't want law enforcement to see anyways so knowing that I am on camera would not disturb me in the least. Putting them in private property is another matter.

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