There has been controversy in the past year about a new phenomenon in the Southern California area. The City of Los Angeles has been putting little cameras at strategic places in the city so that they can monitor potential crimes in progress. There have been cameras installed in a public park and now, a few of them have been placed on Hollywood Boulevard. Both locations are recognized as hotbeds of drug activity.
Critics of such policies say that the cameras are an invasion of privacy. Protect my privacy” in Americanese is usually code for, “Stay away from my sex life”.
To them I can only say – How can you be in a public place and be “private” at the same time? What kinds of “private” activities did you have planned for the next time you’re strolling down Hollywood Boulevard or feeding the ducks in Silverlake? Did you plan to strip naked for a lark? Maybe you had plans to have an illicit affair out in broad daylight? Come on, folks. If you don’t like the idea of cameras in the street, I’m guessing you’re not an exhibitionist. But even if you did something so stupid: 1) You wouldn’t be the first or the last, so get over yourself; 2) The risk of getting arrested would exist with or without cameras; and 3) Nobody really cares.
For myself, I say, go ahead! Take a good look! You will see me caught in the act of walking, perhaps singing to myself, petting a dog, saying hello to a stranger, window shopping, or picking up a free newspaper. Maybe I’ll be spied upon as I enter a Middle Eastern restaurant or a nail salon. You might even see me kiss my husband. Oooooooooooooooooooooh! Big stuff! In other words, behaviorally, I will be exactly like almost anyone else walking down the street. Visually, you may see me in glasses, without glasses, wearing sunglasses, having a bad hair day, having a good hair day, wearing jeans, wearing slacks, wearing a coat, or wearing a sweater. Again – What an invasion of my privacy!
But, why risk it? I say – Dismantle the cameras. Better safe than sorry! So what if a few drug deals go down? So what if a few cars are stolen? So what if some criminal element is allowed to kidnap a few kids and get away with it, even? A drive-by shooting, ah well, it can’t be helped. At least, we’ll all have our precious “privacy”.
I know, I know. This is not the position a “liberal” is supposed to take. But one of my own dearly held beliefs about freedom is that, no matter what label they slap on you, you still have the right to side with the opposition if they’re right about something. To me, that’s what true individuality is about, and it’s nothing that shows up on a camera. As for “privacy”, until the day the government trains cameras on our home, I’m okay.
© 2005, Robin Munson