Convicted Stalker Was Approved By Lancaster To Manage Surveillance Cameras

from the oops dept

A few months back, we wrote about how the town of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, not only had installed more surveillance cameras than many large cities, but was also allowing resident volunteers to control the cameras, which seemed to raise quite a few questions about the potential for abuse. The town insisted it was fine, because even though the screening process was “informal” it planned to “weed out voyeurs and anyone who might use the tapes for blackmail or other illegal activity.” Apparently that weeding process needs a bit of work. Someone who prefers to be anonymous notes that it took a third party to notice that one of the residents approved to control the cameras had been convicted of stalking and harassment, as well as impersonating a public official, in the past. Oddly, the newspaper that wrote up the report still claims that the effort to screen the camera operators has been “a success.” Oh really? The anonymous tipster also notes that the newspaper in which that article appeared just happens to have donated over $200,000 to the surveillance program while also giving the program a $2 million interest-free loan (and you thought all newspapers were broke), so perhaps it isn’t the best judge of how well the program is going.

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Comments on “Convicted Stalker Was Approved By Lancaster To Manage Surveillance Cameras”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I think the issue here is The town insisted it was fine, because even though the screening process was “informal” it planned to “weed out voyeurs and anyone who might use the tapes for blackmail or other illegal activity.” The town lied. Sure yes I know elected officials not being truthful! What is this world coming to!

My problem is the town blatantly lies and the newspaper is in on it. I have no problems with people with criminal records getting jobs or using websites. Hell I can get a sex offender tag for my entire life if I get blasted drunk and piss in my front lawn. So I take that tag with a grain of salt.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Freebirth scum! As long as the cameras are in locations that are legal for someone to take pictures at I see no privacy issue. If the cameras are taking pictures from a public location into a private location then I’d say you’d have a case.

However I do believe that ANY person working these cameras need some sort of check and balance. Just cause someone hasn’t been convicted of stalking doens’t mean he isn’t. And just because a person has been convicted of stalking doesn’t mean they will continue. Where in the issue becomes a problem where “Who watches the watchers”

Alan Gerow (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s not a double standard at all.

One is a private company allowing whoever it wants onto its private networks of members. People have to opt-in to these networks, and can opt-out at any time.

The other is a government entity spying on citizens in public with volunteer watchers. People of this town are charged to be watched, whether they want to be or not. They can only opt-out by never going outside of their home or moving their entire lives to another town that has not enacted such a surveillance system.

It’s apples & oranges.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Unfortunately, as a techdirt fanboy you fail to see the problem. Mike has consistently talked about how once in public people lose their rights to privacy. This is sited in his blogs about privacy groups suing Google Maps for validating privacy. My guess is that next you will claim that the government is different from a private entity. Well, unfortunately I must be missing that part in the constitution where the founding fathers included the right to privacy in public.

Alan Gerow (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I’m not a TechDirt fanboy, I’m a liberty fanboy. Just to point out the subtle difference.

First, please refrain from making my arguments for me. You are doing a poor job of it. I can make my own points, which are much better.

Second, we are discussing a LOCAL government, so you don’t have to find anything in the Constitution about Right to Privacy, because that’s the contract with the People and the FEDERAL government. Though, you may want to look into Amendment X for Right to Privacy in the federal government … which states:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

So, since the Constitution didn’t give the federal government the right to spy on its people, it inherently protects the rights of the people FROM that.

Third, I at no point said there is a right to privacy to begin with (though as shown, there is an interpretation to an implied right to privacy in the Bill of Rights in regards to the federal government). In fact as I said the only way to avoid the camera system is to NOT go in public. When one leaves their private property and enters public space, they are not entitled to any right to privacy. I don’t see a problem inherent with cameras in public. I see a problem with the government running programs that it simply doesn’t need to be doing, wasting taxpayer’s stolen money and creating a system for corruption & abuse … as shown here again with a stalker gaining access to a local government funded camera system, fairly quickly & easily it seems.

Lastly, you do make a correct point: I claim governments ARE inherently different from private entities. I can choose to voluntarily interact with a private entity or not. I do not have such choice with government. It is essentially on all levels different. The government forces interaction with me at the end of a gun. If you want to equate government to a private industry, you are saying that the government is a gang.

The only private industry that operates in the same manner as the government is the mob, extorting protection money and providing substandard services that favor corruption and backroom deals that benefit themselves and their cohorts at the expense of the abused.

Most other private industries operate on a voluntary basis, yet the IRS doesn’t appreciate it when I choose not to participate in their supposedly voluntary system and don’t pay for services I neither want, need, nor use. But hey, I guess private industries are wanting in on that action these days, too … with their “right to get paid” coming out of thin air. You want to talk about rights not mentioned in the Constitution!

Shawn "Kwip" Williams (profile) says:


I know I’m not the only Lancaster resident to read Techdirt (since I discuss it often & share links with other co-workers and friends), but I guess I’m the only one foolish enough to throw my hat into these discussions.

I’d just like to point out (again) that this is not some group-think Orwellian town where we all blindly follow whatever the government puts before us. The camera issue is (and will probably always be) one that is highly controversial. It is a subject of great debate here in town, and while only the ‘bad’ or ‘sensational’ aspects seem to ever reach the wider masses, the cameras have scored a lot of wins for law enforcement (and for keeping us, the residents, safe). Yes, I know we can debate ‘but at what cost?’ till we’re blue in the face (and believe me, there’s so many blue faces in town you’d think they were filming a Braveheart sequel). But the sad truth is that this isn’t a black & white issue.

Lancaster is a small city fighting a very serious crime problem. We’re trying to do it the best way we can, even if the popular opinion of some of those ways can (and should) be debated. But please don’t paint us (or our wonderful city) as brainwashed masses that don’t know (or worse, don’t care) about important issues such as freedom and government limits.

And for the record – the ‘stalker’ is a she, not a he. I know we can all get on our politically correct soapboxes and decry how it doesn’t matter, but it’d be nice if folks would actually read the article before making snide comments (on the interweb? I must be mad!).

Charlie Crystle (profile) says:

Re: Sigh...

First, the crime here is average. Second, you have no idea how effective or not the cameras are–you only have the anecdotal data offered by LCSC.

Finally, this entire project was developed outside the sunshine of public governance, with no public accountability, oversight, and transparency. It’s been handled irresponsibly, and should be shut down until a framework for public operation and governance and a plan for reasonable redeployment can be developed.

Shawn "Kwip" Williams (profile) says:

Re: Re: Sigh...

Actually, crime here is not average. Granted, I’m basing my statements on the 2003 FBI statistics, as they are the most recent ones I have access to. If you have more current statistics, please feel free to correct me. I haven’t been able to find any reliable data more recent, so I apologize for that.

From the FBI statistics for 2003:
Murder Is 1.88 times the National Average
Forcible Rape Is 1.83 times the National Average
Robbery Is 2.01 times the National Average
Aggravated Assault Is 1.32 times the National Average
All Violent Crime Is 1.67 times the National Average

We are above the average on all counts.

Secondly, I never claimed how effective they are – merely that they have scored a number of wins. And they have been used as evidence in a number of cases – granted, the only evidence I have of that is from the LNP site itself, but I never claimed anything more.

Finally, I don’t disagree that the program’s been handled irresponsibly. I definitely think there needs to be a plan for governance, and that this needs work. I wasn’t trying to state anything contrary – I was trying to explain that we (as a city) didn’t enter into this blindly nodding our heads as the piper played on. The decision was made without public input, and the debate about it continues.

Charlie Crystle (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Sigh...

Average–I meant average for an urban area of this size. If you compare the crime stats to a gated retirement community in Tucson then yes, there’s more crime. The national stats include apples and oranges…let’s talk apples to apples.

“merely …a number of wins”–you initially said “a lot of wins”. There’s been no audit of the LCSC data and Police convictions directly (or indirectly) related to LCSC surveillance. The only numbers we have are from the LCSC, not from the Police. We’re working on it, though, and will get an answer. But yesterday WGAL reported something like a 1/3 ratio, which contradicts internal documents. A lot of BS flying around…

And you’re right–it’s very controversial,and should be debated, and the debate should be led by city leaders, but they’ve abdicated their responsibility. So now the national media will end up framing the city for the rest of the country. What could possibly go wrong…

Thomas (profile) says:

Next we'll see...

convicted sex offenders working the cameras finding kids to molest/kill. Then just picture the lawsuit against the town for hiring a convicted sex offender who murdered several kids in town using info he collected from watching the spy cameras. Then the newspaper would get an exclusive on the story since they paid for the system. I wouldn’t go near Lancaster; I’m afraid I would get arrested for sneezing in public.

Trails says:

Kinda proves the point

made in this article:

Bloggers are less likely to have these suspicious circumstances surrounding apparently biased reporting.

Not to say that bloggers are immune (there was a thing a while back about being given free laptops to produce positive articles), but to assert that newspapers are immune is yet again demonstrated to be false.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Kinda proves the point

Of course, given the feeble “security” around this project, they don’t even have to be on-site to do that. One of the many things that politicians and other inferior people who support projects like this fail to grasp is that if THEY can see the camera video stream, so can ANYONE else with sufficient motivation and clue.

Yes, yes, yes, they’ll lie about it: they’ll say it’s “unlikely” and “far-fetched” and “alarmist” that “there are safeguards” and that “their network is secure”. And then it will happen anyway.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Investigative, Grassroots Journalism

The paper invested over $2M for hours of raw footage about the town? This is the kind of high-capital, long-lead time, gritty journalism that we can only get from the classic news industry.

You bloggers with web-cams filming your cats waiting for the big scoop are but flies about the neck of the journalism juggernaut. I say the paper should get the rights, and just start charging for the footage from these cameras. What we need is a paywall. Long live Rupert!


NastyButler (profile) says:

Police State

All I can say is that if I lived in Lancaster when this “project” went into effect, I would promptly put my house on the market and look to move post haste.

If you have a high crime rate, how about using that money to hire more cops? Or dare I suggest, carry a concealed weapon? Not too many communities in Texas, Montana, Alaska, or Wyoming have high crime rates. Hmm, wonder why that is? Could it be becuase the odds are good that the person you’re trying to rob/assault/vandalize has a rifle in their pickups, a shotgun next to their bed or a pistol in their waistband?

If we try to be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to personal safety and shoulder some of the responsibility for our own welfare instead of turning to intrusive government measures, then we’ll have more freedoms intstead of fewer.

Charlie Crystle (profile) says:

I'm from Lancaster

it’s private, constant surveillance of the general population. The City has never passed an ordinance, law, regulation, etc–the leadership has completely abdicated its responsibilities. There’s no public accountability, oversight, or transparency… it’s so amazingly bad how this has evolved.

And we can use any help from the outside.

Hidden Cameras (user link) says:

A lot of potential for abuse

The media has always had a reputation of skewing news to support their own personal agendas. For cities which utilize surveillance cameras in crime prevention, the possibilities for abuse of the system are always present. Then if you have no formal screening process for the monitor attendants, then you leave the door open for problems.

Having the ability of tracking peoples daily patterns of entering and leaving their residence, opens them up to someone of bad moral character to abuse that knowledge through robberies and rapes.

Though I do support the use of surveillance cameras in certain situations, I believe the individuals monitoring the systems should complete a background check to hopefully weed out the few that would abuse that same system which was implemented to protect.

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