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When surveillance is useful

When the Dayton City Commission entertained entering into a contract for a $1,000-an-hour eye-in-the-sky surveillance system, the civil libertarians and privacy advocates came out in droves.

Never mind that there are already cameras in almost every business you visit, every ATM you use, and even mounted on many homes. In South Park we bought 2 portable HD surveillance cams [1] to be used by neighbors who’ve had problems, and a big debate was on where they could be mounted and what they could monitor (thanks mostly to two people for whom I have very little respect).

Yet, with the shooting in Ferguson, MO, there has been a renewed call for personal video cameras for police officers, something I was talking about back in April of 2013. [2] In the Walmart shooting, there is an outcry for the release of the store video camera footage before the Grand Jury has met. Attorney General Mike DeWine has said it shouldn’t be released before the Grand Jury meets, and for once, I’m in agreement.

Those people asking for the footage, were probably the same ones who were anti-drone cam just last year.

Last Tuesday night, I was on my motorcycle when an idiot decided to turn left and hit the rear of my bike as I tried to radically maneuver out of the way. After he hit me, as I lay on the street underneath my bike, he took off. Had the city had an eye in the sky camera, they would have been able to follow his vehicle and catch him, but we didn’t adopt that technology.

Because I was wearing proper gear, and take my riding pretty seriously, I’m one of the lucky ones who gets to walk away from a pretty bad crash. Apparently, that makes it less important for the police to solve than an accident where there is a serious injury. I went to several of the businesses nearby to see if they have footage that shows the traffic, or the accident at the corner of Brown and Wyoming- but had limited luck. Then I started checking other places along the path that they traveled to get to the point of impact- and voila- video. The insurance company is very interested in finding the guilty party, and is investigating. Not that my accident was anywhere near the same magnitude of the Boston Marathon Bombing, but, given the resources and some detective work, it’s becoming much easier to piece together enough information to solve crimes like this.

The problem is, we don’t have the police department able to do it. Our staffing is at or near an all-time low. This is one of the reasons that they were looking at an eye in the sky to begin with.

However, there is also the just plain dumb luck option too- on the way home from the hospital, I saw a car that looked a lot like the one that hit me- right around the corner from my house. Parked right in front of a friend’s house that has video cameras. Resolution enhancement like what you see on 24 or CSI isn’t really possible- but, time and place, and actions can lead directly to who did it. We’ll wait and see if the person waits for the detectives to haul them in, or if they voluntarily turn themselves in.

I understand accidents happen. I’ve been in a few others in my life, but the punk move of taking off, while a guy is on the street pinned under a motorcycle- is unforgivable in my book. That’s why I’m not going to settle down until we find out who did it.

Just as the woman who used to live in my neighborhood who was so against security cameras (until her boyfriend’s car got totaled in the middle of the night- and her neighbors’ cameras caught it on tape and solved the crime) came around, I’m starting to be a proponent of full-time surveillance.

I’m still looking for witnesses, video, photos, from the night of Sept. 2 at Wayne and Wyoming. Please contact me, or Detective Seiter at the Dayton Police Department 937-333-1359 if you have more information.

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Although I commiserate with your unfortunate experience, David, I still find myself reminded of the ancient warning: “be careful what you wish for; you just might get it.” The costs of “full-time surveillance” may very well outweigh the benefits.


It is making a giant leap of faith to think drone surveillance would actually be used by government (and in Dayton, there is not one on the commission/Mayor’s office I would trust) to be used as instruments of peace, fighting crime and righting injustices. The entire purpose of “all surveillance all the time” is NOT to protect the public from evildoers and the like. Movement in that direction represents sacrificing what pathetic shreds of privacy we now have left.
Case in point: a dear friend in 2013 had her grandson kidnapped at gunpoint at an intersection in Dayton equipped with red light surveillance cameras and he was tragically murdered that night. No suspects. The surveillance cameras did not provide even the most basic information to the boys in blue, Dayton’s finest (although they do manage to capture license plate numbers for red light runners–indicating these cameras are the physical embodiment of an oxymoron).
Don’t let this mishap shape your otherwise clear logic. I fear, as we all should, any government and law enforcement agency that can identify a citizen by scanning our retinas while stopped at a red light or standing on a street corner.

Dave C.

Spent some time in London last month. Security cameras everywhere.

I’m OK with it. My expectation of privacy on public streets or other public spaces is essentially nil.

Dave C.

Agreed, a cop is better than a camera. Still, don’t you wish you had good video of the hit-run knucklehead?

Ice Bandit

….concerning the accident, was there a measurable amount of brain damage?…

Enough Paranoia

I don’t want to see cameras everywhere, nor do I really think we need more policemen.

Though many are good folks to be sure, the millions that they spend on bomb disposal robots (usually used for blowing up unidentified discarded containers of some sort) and assault weapons to mow down defenseless kids, hours spent harassing teenage lovers in the park, massive profits made on minor traffic violations or confiscating property of anyone that can be labeled “drug dealer”, and time spent giving kids criminal records for shooting off fireworks, drinking beer or smoking marijuana don’t seem to get at that core mission of actually solving violent crimes or preventing theft.

As far as I’m concerned, there’s been an incredible explosion of police intrusion and nannying in every aspect of our lives. And what doesn’t come from the overall crushing moral conservatism of our time, comes from politicians knee-jerking laws into existence
so as to buy the votes of old ladies crying about the newest attrocity that they’ve been warned about by irresponsible journalists trying to sell more papers.