Many people today are starting to warm up to the fact that CCT cameras are going to be part of our lives in the near future. Since 9/11, Americans have given in to the fear that there are terrorists everywhere and no one is safe, not even for a short walk to the corner store for a gallon of milk. The United Kingdom already has CCT cameras in widespread use and Europe is accustomed to the police cameras on highways in their efforts to prevent speeding. Still, even overseas, people are leery of the ever more intrusive use of CCT cameras but, here in America, we are rolling over and accepting the slow implementation of these devices.
For some, it’s a novelty to look on the Internet and see highway and city cams of various parts of the world. For others, it’s an intrusion into their privacy. No matter which side you rest on, one thing has to be made clear. Your rights shouldn’t be eliminated simply to make the task of ticketing those who break the law easier for the police and local government.
In Davenport, Iowa, Thomas Seymour challenged the city’s use of traffic cameras as a violation of due process and an abdication of police powers. Under city guidelines, the ticket is issued to the owner of the car, which Seymour argued placed the burden on the car owner to prove that he/she was not driving at the time of the incident. The ACLU joined him in his fight, questioning whether the ordinance was even legal to create. Seymour’s attorney argued that, because the new ordinance placed the tickets under a civil violation instead of a misdemeanor, like traditional traffic tickets, the new tickets deprive an individual of their constitutional rights under state and federal laws.
Mr. Seymour lost his case and was forced to pay his fines, mainly due to the judge’s ruling that, even though he received the ticket, the police still had to prove that Mr. Seymour was the one driving the car. Despite the loss in this case, which is under appeal, it only proves more government waste. The cameras are leased with money collected from ticket fines but that does not take into account how much court time, fees and man hours are wasted due to the fact that, if the owners prove they weren’t in the car, there is no fine. No money collected. No fees to upkeep the cameras.
In Minnesota, on the other hand, the State Court of Appeals upheld the Hennepin County District Court’s decision that the photocop program was a violation of state law. Again, in this case, the defendant, Daniel Kuhlman, argued that, as the vehicle owner, his right to due process was violated. The main difference in this case is that, unlike Iowa, Minnesota’s state constitution prevents such a program because it would prevent the regulation of traffic unilaterally throughout the state.
Ohio had a similar reaction to the case in Minnesota. There are many reasons to protest the use of traffic cameras and several citizens have already protested against their use. These machines are known to be error prone, as evidenced in Los Angeles when a defective camera sited more than 3,000 red light violations that never occured.
The state of Maryland struck down a law implementing the use of these machines in 2003. There were concerns over the massive upgrades to the judicial system that would be needed, including new judges, staff, and courtrooms, as well as a multi-million dollar upgrade to the current system to handle all the new cases that would have suddenly appeared. The governor, like the cases in Minnesota and Ohio, feared due process violations.
After a report was released in Washington, DC that their city surveillance cameras did little to deter crime, residents have mixed feelings on the cameras. While they feel that the cameras are safeguarding the community, they also say that it is infringing on their privacy. What they don’t realize is that the cameras are doing little to keep them safe, as evidenced by the admission from the police department.
In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, an ordinance has been proposed to place surveillance cameras in all bars in the city. However, the law could also be rewritten so that they are only placed in large establishments and places where there are problems, leaving many restaurants and small taverns off the list. Many establishment owners site concerns over the costs of implementation, which can run from $1200-$12,000. The police cite that they can use the cameras to settle disputes about what occurred and whether an establishment can retain or renew their liquor license.
Mayor Tom Barrett supports the ordinance, stating that bars that had extra scrutiny by the police led to a drop in shootings. However, Prentice McKinney, who represents the Milwaukee Metropolitan Entertainment Association, stated that he has cameras in his own bar and, even after telling his unruly customers that they are recorded, they continue with their disorderly behavior. He is adamant that the cameras do little or nothing to prevent crimes, though they may help with investigations later.
It has been proved many times before that the physical presence of law enforcement officers is what deters crime. Cameras, which are inanimate, cannot stop crimes before they happen. To think that the cameras will prevent crimes is shortsighted and is merely an easy way out to give the appearance that the police are providing security when, in reality, they are only providing a means to possibly see what happened in the past, leaving the present insecure.