FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
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Local opinion columnists

I welcome Big Brother

By From page A7 | February 27, 2014

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re being watched? Big Brother is here and I’d actually like to see more of him.

I’m talking about video surveillance cameras.

It was impressive work for Fairfield police officers to check video cameras at Parkway Gardens to get to the truth about an alleged DUI crash this past Tuesday afternoon. When police arrived on scene, a 55-year-old Fairfield woman claimed to have been driving a car that had slammed into a tree. When investigators checked the video, they discovered that the woman’s daughter had been driving and there’d been other occupants in the vehicle.

If no cameras were present, the daughter would’ve most likely skated on the felony DUI allegation.

Just last week, we learned that video surveillance cameras along Fairfield city streets played a significant role in police finding and arresting Anthony Jones on suspicion of the slaying of 13-year-old Genelle Conway-Allen.

Body-worn cameras are a welcome addition to the Fairfield Police Department. Last year, our officers reportedly made 4,400 arrests and officers were assaulted 23 times. The cameras will help protect the public and officers and provide an objective record of events.

These successes notwithstanding, some folks will never like video surveillance. This is usually the time where some critics will quote Ben Franklin, “Those who would give up Essential Liberty, to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Of course Franklin’s remark is taken out of context, but the fear among some is that we’re heading toward a police state.

There is no expectation of privacy in public. If we go to the bank, convenience store, gas station, supermarket, department store and many other public places, we’re already on camera and have been for years. Not to mention that it’s a safe bet that at least half of the people we see in public are carrying smartphones with cameras. Technology is changing law enforcement and that’s a good thing.

It’s not just police. A Fairfield neighborhood watch group used its own surveillance cameras to nab a burglary suspect last fall.

Critics point out that it hasn’t been proven that video surveillance systems prevent crime. Clearly with the amount of stupid criminals caught on tape, video doesn’t deter everyone. That’s something that’s difficult to quantify. No one is coming forward saying, “I was going to rob that 7-Eleven until I saw the video camera in the corner.” Common sense should tell us that it must deter some people.

But that’s not the point of surveillance cameras. They give us objective eyes after the fact to help determine suspects, identify vehicles and see what actually occurred. With video, we don’t have to solely rely on shaky or biased witness testimony. Video can stand in for those too timid or too involved to call the police and bear witness to a crime.

Perhaps in the future when a gang member is shot and dropped off at the hospital and refuses to cooperate with police, video can speak for him.

I commend Fairfield police for using this tool to help solve crimes in the community. But the greatest weapon against crime is still us. If you have information on the Jan. 3 Terrell Brumfield homicide or the Feb. 15 killing of Naomy Rojas, please call the Fairfield Police Major Crimes Unit at 428-7600 or the 24-hour tip line at 428-7345. Peace.

Kelvin Wade is the author of “Morsels” Vols. I and II and lives in Fairfield. Email him at [email protected]

Kelvin Wade

Kelvin Wade

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Discussion | 3 comments

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  • CD BrooksFebruary 27, 2014 - 9:49 am

    Kelvin, I could not agree more and in the absence of actual officers, I would gladly be in favor of more cameras!

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  • AnonymousFebruary 27, 2014 - 12:31 pm

    Interesting observation. Certainly video cameras do help deter crime and privacy is not expected in public places, only inside of private property like a home or a car. When you say you welcome Big Brother, you really mean you welcome video cameras, right?That is what is stated in the beginning. Surely the mass collection of metadata and other data via the violation of our 4th Amendment Rights isn't what you are welcoming. Heading towards a police state? We are already in one. The United States only has 5% of the world's total population, yet has 25% of the world's prison population. Most of the people are locked up over nonviolent 'criminal' offenses because of what they decided to put in their own bodies. When we have private prisons making a profit off of incarceration and promises by states to have a certain number of bodies, we have a problem. When we have correctional officers lobbying to keep sentences high so they may have job security, we have a problem. This is the police state. This is the new Jim Crow. The problem with embracing video cameras being used by the police is the fear that it won't be embraced the other way around. Perhaps Fairfield police have no issue being filmed, but that doesn't hold true for the rest of the country. Hell, given the horrible attitude and petty nature of many of the Fairfiled PD officers, I think if push came to shove, they would retaliate against someone filming them. This is my fear. If filming provides transparency of the citizens, transparency must be made of the government which just won't be had.

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  • SanmansrFebruary 27, 2014 - 4:01 pm

    "Rules were made to be Broken" isn't that the old saying? It doesn't matter what you do people will still defy the law. Look in front of any school in the am or pm and see how many people are driving talking on their phones, and or speeding! Both are against the law, I am sure there are some cameras that could see these problems, but then again, if you do not have a officer able to watch everyone, Who is going to review the film? Maybe Fairfield could hire some of those Casino Camera guys from Reno, or Vegas just to watch all the cameras, then we could buy even more. Wasn't that long ago we got Red Light Cameras, let 300 plus people, who knowingly ran a Red Light, go due to the try out period, and not sure, how is that working out for us, now? And we all know that NOBODY will run the new metering lights, because it's a law!

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