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 firstname.lastname@example.org.