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« Stirfry

Is it time for surveillance cameras?

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)


Published May 24, 2006

The more than 50 responses to this writer's column last Sunday headlined "Swarmed! What would you do?" can be summed up thus: Youngstown residents and nonresidents alike are mad as hell and aren't going to take it any more. "It" is the thuggish behavior of young people who find pleasure in making law-abiding citizens squirm.

As the column pointed out, being swarmed by a gang of thugs who block traffic and challenge drivers to confront them is an experience that is at once intimidating and angering.

So, what can be done?

The answer can be found on the streets and alleyways of London: Police surveillance cameras. As the Wall Street Journal reported last July after the terrorist bombing, "The British capital has more surveillance cameras monitoring its citizens than any other major city in the world. The highly visible gadgets are posted on the corners of many buildings, on new buses, and in every subway station. ... In all, there are at least 500,000 cameras in the city, and one study showed that in a single day a person could expect to be filmed 300 times."

And earlier this month, National Public Radio's Renee Montagne reported the following: "Police surveillance cameras cover much of London already. Now, a new community television channel is being launched where residents of one neighborhood will be able to monitor their local surveillance cameras. The idea is that regular people will be able to report and deter crimes. Detractors say it's another step towards creating an Orwellian city."

Would the thugs who terrified motorists on Fifth Avenue on Youngstown's North Side have been deterred had there been surveillance cameras? Probably not. But what would have happened is that they would have been caught on film, making it easier for police to go after them.

The city doesn't have enough police officers to take back the streets. Something has to be done to protect law-abiding citizens.

Do cameras work, or are they just another intrusion into people's lives? Mayor Williams should have a chat with the mayor of London.


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