Published December 31. 2013 4:00AM
Even the most aberrant of individuals are less likely to commit crimes if they know someone is watching. That is why the increased use of security cameras to monitor activity in public places makes sense. The video recordings not only aid law enforcement in solving crime, but these ever-present eyes of authority can discourage criminal activity to begin with.
Expanding use of security cameras by police does raise the potential for abuse. Americans must be free to move about in public places without Big Brother keeping record of their activities.
As noted in a recent story by Day Staff Writer Greg Smith, the Norwich Police Department is striking a proper balance. The police are using a dozen cameras to monitor the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. Installers placed the cameras to display activity only in public places. Unless they are needed as evidence or to aid in an investigation, police delete the recordings after 30 days.
A review by the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut concluded the program adequately protects citizens' rights.
Norwich police say the cameras are helping, reducing drug activity and solicitation for prostitution in known problem areas in the Greeneville section, for example.
In his 2011 election campaign, New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio called for expanded "use of electronic surveillance devices in public parks and on public streets … to better apprehend and identify offenders, and to discourage drug activities in these areas."
The sooner the mayor can follow through on this pledge, the better. Deputy Chief Peter Reichard told The Day the police department is in the early stages of exploring where cameras will most benefit public safety. The few cameras the city now employs along the waterfront are technologically outdated and not necessarily positioned for best use.
Money is a problem for the cash-strapped city. Note, however, that Norwich utilized $150,000 in federal community development block grant money to pay for camera installation.
Some have ridiculed Mayor Finizio's call for greater use of security cameras, saying that they are no replacement for officers on patrol. True, they are not. The administration needs to reverse the troubling exodus of trained officers from its department. However, cameras can be an effective law enforcement tool.