Video Surveillance Gets Boston Boost; Does It Protect Public or Curb Crime?


If video surveillance provided the crucial break in the Boston Marathon case, surveillance cameras may take on new allure, says the Associated Press. The upside of the expanding surveillance network is clear — a greater potential for law enforcement to solve crimes and, in some instances, to prevent them. David Antar of New York-based IPVideo Corporation says video surveillance can be set up to trigger warnings if bags are left unattended or suspicious activity takes place before or during a large-scale event.

Civil libertarians worry about an irrevocable loss of privacy for anyone venturing into public places. “It's now harder and harder to go about our lives without being tracked everywhere,” said Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union. Adds law Prof. Jonathan Turley of George Washington University: “Americans still cite privacy as one of the core values they cherish, but what's happening is this slow, insidious erosion of it.” London-based Big Brother Watch has been campaigning to cut back on the surveillance network. “While it provides a sometimes useful tool after an event, it doesn't address the root causes of crime and doesn't protect the public,” said the group's director, Nick Pickles. “The public has been desensitized, and so have the perpetrators of crime. The initial deterrent effect has largely disappeared because people just take it for granted.”

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