Surveillance cameras not real protection
Breaking the mold - Former art department chairman Richard Akers poses with his self-portrait, In the Woods, in the Eddie Rhodes Gallery on Sept. 3. Akers is currently serving as Academic Senate president. (Sam Attal / The Advocate)
The United States is a surveillance state. In recent years that fact has become obvious.
With it, however, has come another fact. Most people are OK with the fact that we live in one.
With that in mind, and with no opposition, the Contra Costa Community College District has decided to add cameras to campus for police use. This is no surprise, though their purpose and choice of placement is questionable.
The district Governing Board wants to place cameras at the entrances and exits to campus. The benefits of this have been stated as being: Police Services can monitor foot traffic and it allows for criminals to be monitored as they flee the campus.
These benefits of placing cameras here sound very nice, but they are not going to stop someone from smashing a car window. Cameras at the entrances and exits are not going to prevent a person from strong arm robbing a student in a parking lot.
In short, they are not going to prevent crime here.
If someone steals a car from a parking lot, once that person leaves campus he or she has the choice to go in any number of directions as the campus is near I-80 and San Pablo Avenue.
It is hard to imagine what actual benefits cameras will have at campus entrances and exits.
Cameras in campus parking lots, however, may at least stop someone from stealing a car.
When a would-be thief looks up and sees his face has just been recorded, he may just decide against committing a crime. That is the only good reason to install cameras on campus.
Solving crimes is important, but money should be spent on preventing crimes from occurring.
If students are expected to give up a measure of their privacy to the college, then college and district officials need to make sure they are doing everything they can to ensure that students are benefiting from the invasion.
Cameras should be placed on campus only if their placement is advertised to everyone, particularly students and staff, in areas where people's movements will be recorded, and if those cameras are placed with the sole purpose of discouraging people from committing crimes here.
Cameras at the entrances and exits of campus do not serve this purpose. They are a way of monitoring who is on campus. Cameras will allow police to identify "suspicious" subjects who may or may not ever be related to a crime or "incident" on campus.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. But cameras being added to campus entrances and exits are far from even an ounce of either.
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