After Boston, any philosophical qualms about the proliferation of surveillance cameras sound hopelessly naive. The two suspects in the marathon bombing were identified as quickly as they were because not just one but at least two surveillance cameras caught them in the act of walking past, carrying backpacks.
As it happens, the Oregon House has just voted to broaden the permitted uses of images from red-light cameras that have been posted in some cities including Albany. On April 17, the bill sailed through the House on a vote of 57-3 and was sent to the Senate.
Current law says the red-light cameras can be used only to enforce the law on traffic signals. House Bill 2601, as amended in committee, would allow the use of those images as evidence in any criminal proceeding, except that they can’t be used to prove mere violations other than running red lights. So if there’s a robbery, kidnapping or assault or any other serious crime, images from the cameras could be used to investigate and to prosecute.
Rep. Andy Olson of Albany carried the bill on the floor of the House. This was before, back east, the FBI released security camera footage showing the bomb suspects, dramatically illustrating how the benefits of their use can outweigh concerns about privacy — and in this case outweigh them by far. (hh)