Expansion of Surveillance Cameras

By: Val Thompson Email
By: Val Thompson Email

April 19, 2013

Surveillance cameras played a large part in identifying the Boston bombing suspects and finding them. Cameras are also changing how local police officers investigate crimes, but privacy advocates worry that the expansion of cameras is crossing a line.

Albemarle County Police say the use of surveillance cameras has increased dramatically in the past decade.

"It's really one of the first places that we look," said Carter Johnson with Albemarle County Police. "It's amazing how many cameras are out in the community."

The owner of Brown's in Charlottesville says the cameras in his store are keeping away crime.

"I think it's a good deterrent," said Mike Brown. "They know they're being watched. They'll think twice before shoplifting."

Brown says he has not had any criminal problems since he opened two years ago.

But privacy advocates say too many cameras, especially those along public streets, are crossing a line.

"Before the government can touch you or conduct surveillance on you they have to have some reasonable evidence that you're committing a crime or participating in some kind of illegal activity," said the Rutherford Institute's John Whitehead. "In America you're innocent until you're proven guilty. But if you're being watched all the time by the police or the government you are a suspect."

Police say that's not a problem because they're not watching all the time. They only use footage when they're investigating a crime with the store's permission.

"The cameras that we often use in these investigations are not our cameras," said Johnson. "They are often cameras that belong to a business, a resident, or someone in the community and then we go and have a partnership with them."

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