As the city of Youngstown cracks down on curfew violations with a new initiative aptly named “Do You Know Where Your Children Are?” by Mayor Charles Sammarone, there’s a tool government should use aggressively: surveillance cameras.
Youngstown is to install cameras in the downtown area on West Federal Street and on the South Side near St. Dominic Church, but the program needs to be expanded into the neighborhoods. There was time when a distinction was made between high-crime areas in Youngstown and the rest of the city, but today that’s a distinction without a difference.
Crime is just about everywhere, which necessitates the adoption of a variety of strategies: community policing (with emphasis on foot patrols); neighborhood watch groups; churches and other community-based organizations; and, yes, surveillance cameras.
They work — as demonstrated in Boston, Mass.
Not to take anything away from city, state and federal law enforcement officials who did yeoman’s work, or from the residents of Boston, but without the security cameras in the vicinity of the Boston marathon bombing, the two suspects would not have been identified and chased down so quickly.
The FBI released photos and video on April 18 — three days after the deadly attack — of the men, and sought the public’s help in identifying them. The photos were from cameras near the explosion sites. In less than a day, brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were on the nation’s most-wanted list.
Tamerlan, 26, died April 19 after he and Dzhokhar, 19, were in a fierce gunbattle with police in Watertown. Dzhokhar was nabbed by law enforcement later that day after he was found hiding in a boat parked behind a house. He had a gunshot wound to the throat and other injuries, and is now in a federal bureau of prisons hospital 40 miles from Boston.
The naturalized U.S. citizen has been charged with using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction. Tamerlan and Dzhokhar are accused of setting off shrapnel-packed pressure cooker bombs that killed three people, including an 8-year-old boy, and injuring more than 200.
The brothers, ethnic Chechens from Russia, came to America about 10 years ago with their parents, who returned to Europe last year.
Surveillance camera footage showed each brother placing a knapsack containing a bomb in the crowd near the finish line of the 26.2-mile race.
“The Camera Never Blinks” was the title of a 1977 book by veteran TV journalist Dan Rather. As the surveillance footage in Boston shows, the camera is also a more reliable source of information than so-called citizen journalists.
Cities around America and throughout the world have installed surveillance cameras in highly populated and high-crime areas to provide them with another layer of law enforcement. And while critics have raised privacy concerns, the extra sets of eyes for law enforcement agencies are paying dividends.
The Boston marathon bombing brought to mind the acts of terrorism in another major city, London, England, eight years ago.
At that time, suicide bombers targeted the public transportation system. The attacks took place during rush hour on the morning of July 7. Four bombs were detonated in quick succession by four home-grown terrorists. Fifty-two people and the four bombers were killed. Over 700 were injured.
Underground trains in London and a double-decker bus were targeted.
Trail of clues
The city of London has surveillance cameras at virtually every street corner, which enabled law enforcement to follow a trail of clues that led from London to nearby Luton to Leeds in the north country and on to Cairo.
There was a second wave of bombers two weeks later who failed in their attempt to kill London commuters, and left more clues for police.
In Youngstown, Mayor Sammarone has declared war on the drug kingpins and gangbangers, but he has also said minors should be off the streets by the 11 p.m. curfew on weekdays and midnight on weekends. While social service agencies and others have agreed to work with the city, there still is the problem of young people growing up in homes without responsible adults. These youngsters are in harm’s way, or are the troublemakers. They’re the ones who need to be watched.
The camera never blinks or lies.