Cameras in Parks Are a Step Too Far

Civil liberty is the key component of this issue.

We all want safety and security for ourselves and our families.

Those of us who whose hair has either left the room or turned to gray or white certainly remember the days when parents didn't seem to worry as much about how safe their children were when they left the house for the day.

As a young skinny nine-year-old, summer days meant that I would leave the house shortly after breakfast on my stingray bicycle with the banana seat. The itinerary would be fluid as the day's events would take me to places both planned and unplanned. Lunch would often be at a friend's house and on occasion we would lunch at my mothers table. We usually didn't know whose mom would feed us until we all piled into the kitchen.

Most times, our afternoons would include unscheduled and unsupervised games that frequently evolved into the kind of roughhousing young boys are known for. Knees would be scraped, heads banged and, once in a while, an eye blackened or a nose bloodied.

We were kids, and we acted like kids. The world wasn't less dangerous, we were just less aware of the dangers.

Supper (dinner was for the haves, not the have nots) would almost always be at home. When the table was cleared and the plates washed, we would head out again knowing full well which street light closest to home was the last to go on. That light would dictate when a return home was due.

There were bad people out there, including a few priests and others of the supposed "responsible types." Concerned parents would ensure their children were aware of those characters.

One thing I still see and hear my father say is, "see that guy riding around with all of those kids in his truck? If I ever see you anywhere near him I'll kick your behind." That's all I needed to hear. There was also a little league coach he didn't trust, so I never played.

Somehow we all survived without cell phones, GPS, baby fingerprints, photos on file with the PD or micro-chips in out little backsides. 

We also survived without .

These days many kids are never out of contact with their parents. That is not a bad thing, it's just the way it is. The world can be perilous. It was so in 1969, and it is still so in 2012.

We have come to a point as a society where it is becoming accepted that we will appear on camera just about everywhere we go — markets, banks, schools, parking lots and traffic intersections to list a few. In an attempt to provide security and, perhaps save budget money, both private businesses and governments are looking at expanding camera usage.

Another aspect of this is the profit motive of the companies who design, manufacture, market and maintain these cameras. Many of the statistics used to support installation of these devices are created and published by these very same companies.

Yes, the world is dangerous, it always has been and always will be. Good parents find a way to keep their children safe and also understand that there will be times when they will be unable to provide that safety net.

With all due respect to those who prefer the security over the civil liberty aspects, I say it is time here in Salem to draw a line in the sand.

We already have cameras at the , whose fence still takes a regular beating. Let's keep them out of the rest of our public parks.

John Lord July 16, 2012 at 11:01 AM
Bill, the damage to the fence is not caused by vandals. It is the result of (very) old age and more recently, National Guard horses. While you may, and I emphasis the may, have a good point, I'm not sure why you mixed in the aged and poorly (non) maintained Common fence with your opinion.
John Dumas July 16, 2012 at 11:46 AM
Civil liberties are a relic of the past. Just like when an accident could be just accidental. Now everything and everyone MUST be controlled so no one gets nervous. Did you ever think someone would be in-charge of how much sugar you had in your drink??? I think that before any new law gets passed the proposer should have all the actual weight of all the current law books piled on him first, if and only if he somehow survives then he may propose the new law.
John Dumas July 16, 2012 at 11:55 AM
It reminds me of cameras at stop lights. We had a chance to save far more lives just by adding one second to the yellow light period or spend money to CATCH people and increase revenue. We all know how that turned out! Just what is the world record for a small city paying consultant fees? Were is our gold medal?
Don Nadeau July 16, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Until society turns back away from so much me-ism and back toward we-ism or dare I say community, where everyone is tended to like your brother and sister, then civic responsibilities are burdened upon our civic watchdogs, a small minority. Cameras are one budget way - not the best - for them to discharge that responsibility.
Don Nadeau July 16, 2012 at 12:34 PM
But I am very pleased to be part of Salem, community that is more of a community than anywhere I have lived since the days when I was a freewheeling child, and moms knew what was going on at all times in their respective hoods - or so it seemed - and that was usually enough.
M. Doyle July 16, 2012 at 01:56 PM
This is really bad news for Salem, and society in general. Cameras on the common are one step closer to Foucault's descriptoin of the "panopticon"...Are police loudspeakers next? "No going up the slide backwards!" "Building on Foucault, contemporary social critics often assert that technology has allowed for the deployment of panoptic structures invisibly throughout society. Surveillance by closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in public spaces is an example of a technology that brings the gaze of a superior into the daily lives of the populace. Furthermore, a number of cities in the United Kingdom, including Middlesbrough, Bristol, Brighton and London have added loudspeakers to a number of their existing CCTV cameras. They can transmit the voice of a camera supervisor to issue audible messages to the public.[14][15] Similarly, critical analyses of internet practice have suggested that the internet allows for a panopticon form of observation.[16] ISPs are able to track users' activities, while user-generated content means that daily social activity may be recorded and broadcast online"
William Legault July 16, 2012 at 02:12 PM
That one incident was caused by the horses John. Most of the other damage, like the photo shown with this article, was inflicted in other ways.
Meg Elizabeth July 16, 2012 at 02:19 PM
“Good parents find a way to keep their children safe and also understand that there will be times when they will be unable to provide that safety net." I have to say this statement comes off as very ignorant. As much as a 'good' parent tries, you can only control so much. If a parent is not 'good' does that mean their child deserves to be harmed? Have you ever heard “bad things happen to good people”? What constitutes a ‘good’ parent? As always Bill, good article, but I think you veered off topic a bit. This piece was less about how civil liberties may be taken away (“A Step Too Far”) and more about your opinion on youth and parenting. (But that is the beauty of an opinion piece, isn’t it?) You seem to be stuck in the days past – when parents were able to recognize those that were bad, and warn their children. Communities were different then. Families operated differently. I wish it was as easy as pointing to the man in the van and telling my child to stay away. Yes, your generation may have ‘survived’, but do you not want better for the next? Merely surviving is not what I would want for my children. If you are a respectable citizen, doing respectable things at the park, the cameras should not affect you one bit. Camera’s will not magically fix anything, and may provide a dangerous false sense of security, but it they do happen to deter that one bad person away from the park that my children are playing in, how could I be against that?
William Legault July 16, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Meg that comment was made in response to a few who commented here on Patch that cameras would make watching their kids easier. There is no ignorance here. Not all in my generation survived, I remember at least four kids who did not. I do want better for the generations that follow. If that "better"means surveillance by authorities just for the sake of surveillance then I would argue that it is not a better future at all.
Michele Brown July 16, 2012 at 02:53 PM
First of all, what type of cameras? Are we talking 24 hour surveillance or what? At the recent meetings for the Splaine Park renovations, it was mentioned there will be cameras installed. They will be motion activated and go on automatically at dark, when the park is closed. The idea is to catch activity at night, when no one is supposed to be there anyways. It's a non-invasive way to discourage the undesirables, thugs, and vandals. Some of the parks have them already. An example was given to us that a known troublemaker was seen by one of these cameras and given a warning by the Police that they were watching. Vandalism in the park with these cameras has decreased. They can be an effective tool. I don't feel this is a bad thing, or an infringement on our civil rights. After all, if you're not doing anything wrong, what are you worried about? That being said, I would probably object to 24 hour surveillance, unless there was a seriously troublesome spot.
Jared Robinson July 16, 2012 at 02:54 PM
There's a difference between scraped knees,banged heads... and possibly child abduction and molestation. That is what differentiates the world of 1969 and 2012. Hell, it was safer back in the late 80s compared to now. What exactly has changed? Are there simply more wackos now then there were before or are they simply being reported more often?
William Legault July 16, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Jared I truly believe that there just as many 'wackos" in the 60's and before as there are now. Media was not as widespread as it is now so yes, we did not hear about many of them. Social morals and codes were also different. Just look at how many Salem parents did not believe the stories their children told about Birmingham at St. James on Federal St.
Casey July 16, 2012 at 05:17 PM
It have been nice to have caught the attempted abduction at Forest River on camera...they were not able to catch the men.
john July 16, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Many of the people getting arrested in Salem give the Shelter as their home address. The Shelter is one example of what has changed but people try to be careful because of the fine line between good and bad.The Shelter is a major contributor to problems all over Salem.Put some cameras at the Shelter to make sure the wrong people are not being allowed in.
Matt Buchanan July 17, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Bill is correct about this issue, the idea of a kid being abducted gives me the chills and I think may be one of the worst things that can ever happen to a family, but our society is obsessed with band-aids. I do not believe that cameras will solve the problem. Try to get into the psychology of a person who would do something so terrible. If there are cameras, yes they may deter a crime from happening in view of the cameras, but I imagine someone this sick may find another place to pull off the same crime. Think of it in a more way everyone can relate to, yes speed detectors put out by police, or a speed trap on the side of the road are effective in slowing down traffic in that moment, but most of you reading these words will admit to yourselves that you immediately speed back up and commit the same crime as soon as the police or speed monitor are out of view. I know this example is a bit of stretch, but and the abductor is clearly a much more sever crime, but I hope my point is made. Surveillance is effective in targeted areas, but does little to solve the actual problem.....so my question is this.....by adding cameras and preventing horrific crimes in selected areas, does this positive outweigh the freedom lost and the permanent change in our cultural norms? It's easy to add a camera, near impossible to take one away, I think cameras are a big mistake for our society. I honestly think we're just shifting the problem from one place to another.
John Dumas July 17, 2012 at 05:03 PM
" if you're not doing anything wrong, what are you worried about?" Tell me if this link to "Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin" uses the exact same words?
Matt Hurst July 30, 2012 at 04:30 PM
People complain they want to be protected from the homeless, theft, and drug users/pushers and yet scoff at the idea of cameras in our parks and blame the Salem Police department when incident occurs. Reality check readers, our parks are home to all of the above mentioned and when you are assaulted, accosted or witness a drug deal going on 25 feet from where junior is playing or worse abducted, you will scream "Foul." If you want a sense of community and safety, you must participate in it. How many of our readers are actually registered as safe homes for our children to run to in an emergency or involved in a task-force/crime watch program. I concur with the above reader John Dumas "If you're not doing anything wrong, what are you worried about?" Bravo to the Salem Police Department - for being proactive to the responses of our residents (whether they realize it or not).
john July 30, 2012 at 05:28 PM
I also agree,if Salem is going to continue in the same direction with regard to the unwanted poulation,then bring on the cameras and put them under supervision. I also have nothing to hide.
John Dumas July 31, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Did anyone get the EVIL dictator part?


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