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How Effective are Surveillance Cameras?

Aired June 10, 2003 - 20:18   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Prosecutors in San Jose, California have filed a range of charges, including rape, against a man accused of kidnapping a 9-year-old girl. Remember that case? A neighbor's surveillance camera, of course, recorded the abduction of the child who is now safe, we should point out.
Surveillance video has become a common tool fighting crime. But at what cost? Despite what police say, was it tremendous aid in this case? CNN's Frank Buckley delves into the issue.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the San Jose kidnapping, the crime was caught on videotape from a neighbor's surveillance camera. Police say it was in valuable.

CHIEF WILLIAM LANSDOWNE, SAN JOSE POLICE DEPT.: It allowed us to put together some theories that kind of directed the investigation, and that was critical.

BUCKLEY: And it was only the most recent example of surveillance camera videotaping aiding police.

Last year there was the mother seen hurting her child in the parking lot of an Indiana department store. The mother quickly identified and apprehended. In January, a camera inside a store in Salt Lake City showed a boy being abandoned by a man who was later arrested. He was a suspect in the disappearance of the boy's mother.

DET. DWAYNE BAIRD, SALT LAKE CITY POLICE DEPT.: Without that video, it would be very difficult to know who had dropped him off.

BUCKLEY: Police in this case and others, according to Salt Lake City Police Detective Dwayne Baird, find that even when the videotape is grainy, it helps to provide a clear picture of at least what happened, when witnesses may be too shaken by a crime.

BAIRD: When they really are in a highly stressful situation, or they're not certain exactly what went on where.

BUCKLEY: Surveillance cameras have long been in banks and other business. But the San Jose kidnapping pointed to yet another place where surveillance cameras are popping up, in and around homes.

(on camera): While there are no firm statistics how many homes are equipped with systems like this one here, the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association reports it's 2,400-member business report that it is a growing trend. They attribute that trend to the increased availability of systems, and to lower costs.

(voice-over): But with cameras virtually everywhere now, privacy advocates say the notion of Big Brother watching its citizens all the time, just waiting for a crime to occur, has arrived.

BOB BARR, FRM. U.S. REPRESENTATIVE, ACLU CONSULTANT: We're allowing of the government to gather evidence on people, whether they're simply walking, whether they're in their home, whether they're in their car, without any probable cause whatsoever to suspect that they've done anything wrong.

BUCKLEY: Surveillance cameras, some say are changing the way people live their lives.

BARR: If you, again, have to worry about every move that you make, whether or not somebody is surveilling you or taking your picture, it changes how you operate. It takes away your freedom.

BUCKLEY: But they're also vital tools, say police, to taking away the freedoms of those who are breaking the law.

Frank Buckley, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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