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Posted on Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 6:02 a.m.

University of Michigan student organizations back proposed Ann Arbor privacy ordinance

By Heather Lockwood

A University of Michigan student group's proposal for an ordinance restricting the use of police surveillance cameras in Ann Arbor is gaining support among the broader student population.

The Michigan Student Assembly passed a resolution in support of the proposed ordinance last week. And a day later, the U-M College Democrats followed suit, said William Leaf, leader of Students Against Surveillance.

"It's fantastic, the more people we get, the better chance we have of making it a law," said Leaf, a junior U-M history major. "People have said students don't care about privacy, but it's not true."

Cameras haven't yet been introduced or discussed in Ann Arbor, but group members say they're advocating for an ordinance after cameras have popped up in several other cities.

The proposed Ann Arbor Freedom From Surveillance Ordinance calls for a ban on police surveillance cameras in outdoor parks and residential areas, and would restrict the use of cameras to "high-crime" areas of the city, Leaf said.

"We're not trying to ban surveillance cameras — we're trying to restrict them in a fair and good way," he said.

John Oltean, Michigan Student Assembly external relations committee chairman and U-M political science and sociology senior, said he hopes MSA's involvement in the effort will strengthen its relationship with Ann Arbor City Council.

"Basically, I think it's important that MSA takes up some of these student concerns," Oltean said. "MSA has an important role to advocate on behalf of students to city officials."

Proposed ordinance

  • Download a copy of the proposed ordinance here.
Oltean said the proposed ordinance "places rational regulations on security cameras" and MSA does not want "expensive surveillance systems to replace real police work and street lighting."

Brendan Campbell, chair of the U-M College Democrats, said the ordinance is an "important" preemptive measure.

"First is, of course, the issue of privacy," he said. "But when you take the privacy issue and put it together with how ineffective (surveillance cameras) have proved to be in other cities — these cameras are extremely expensive; they are an invasion of privacy; and they don't work."

Leaf said his two main motivations for creating the group and writing the ordinance are to prevent potential government abuse of power and to protect "privacy for its own sake."

"Police shouldn't have total access to personal lives," he said.

The city of Ann Arbor doesn't currently have a police surveillance system in place. And Ann Arbor Police Lt. Angella Abrams said she has heard "nothing whatsoever" about the possibility of police surveillance cameras eventually being used in the city.

lansing photo1-thumb-300x283-59461.jpg

The Lansing Police Department uses surveillance cameras like this one..

Photo courtesy of William Leaf

The Lansing Police Department currently uses 13 of what it calls public video surveillance cameras, said Lansing Police Chief Teresa Szymanski.

The cameras were installed from 2008 to 2009, and all but two are in residential areas, according to department spokesman Lt. Noel Garcia.

Garcia said having the surveillance cameras is an "officer safety issue." When a crime is committed in view of one of the cameras, police dispatchers are able to watch the incident in real-time and provide crucial information to officers responding to the incident, he said.

Rana Elmir, spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union, said police surveillance systems are "ineffective, expensive and undermine our privacy."

"(The ACLU) opposes surveillance cameras, especially in residential areas," Elmir said. "There's a growing body of research ... which shows cameras' effect on crime is inconclusive and ineffective at best."

She said video surveillance systems, especially in residential areas, "chill innocent speech."

There's also the potential for abuse of such systems, Elmir said.

"Camera operators are human and, therefore, they make mistakes — the surveillance videos can be used for inappropriate purposes, whether voyeurism, stalking or harassing," she said.

Leaf said the next step for SAS is to continue to gather support from individuals and groups and to discuss the ordinance with City Council members individually.

Heather Lockwood is a reporter for Reach her at or follow her on Twitter.



Wed, Nov 24, 2010 : 10:40 p.m.

"I am truly disappointed, however, to see their efforts met with such open contempt from certain adult commenters on this website" Hopefully they are the vocal minority.


Tue, Nov 23, 2010 : 9:18 p.m.

@ Roadman: I know - we actually looked at a unit that could be worn like a watch - same basic technology as is used in cell phones. (This was after another autistic child we knew wandered off and couldn't be found - kids like that won't answer you when you call them if they don't want to...) Some companies are using them on employees - the implants, not the wristbands. I am waiting for schools to say your child must have an implant before they will allow them to come to school... On the one hand - it would an acceptable choice - your child could be tracked where ever they are. In this day and age - with so many horrific things that we read about every day invoving children - it's a no brainer to want to protect them... But then you begin to think about the long term issues and the fact that this could be abused which would NOT be anything you would want for your child as they become an adult.


Tue, Nov 23, 2010 : 8:15 p.m.

@Robyn: Regarding Lo-jacking. There currently exists technology, used on cattle and even cats and dogs, to place a microchip implant to identify if the animal is lost or stolen. It could be done with humans as well. If we could have these microchips give off a unique signal, like our mobile phone frequencies, we could trace everyone everywhere. No more fugitives. As long as they were in the jurisdiction, we would know where they were at. No more missing persons as long as their microchip was functioning. If this sounds far-fetched think about Echelon, the once-secret electronic surveilance system that recorded just about everybody who used a telephone, fax machine, or cell phone. Nowadays, as to visual surveillance, we have motion sensor cameras that activate when someone passes by. Scientists use them in forests to photograph animal movements. Put it in a parking lot overnight to catch anyone who may be stealing a car or up to no good. Its great technology. But it's Orwellian.


Tue, Nov 23, 2010 : 6:46 p.m.

Hey, if the students don't want them I'm happy to take them in my neighborhood! I value my privacy, but I'm not around my house 24/7 and it would be nice if a camera recorded that car that tore up my lawn. Or broke into my house, etc. Even with hourly police patrols by my house it's doubtful they'd catch someone who did something when a patrol wasn't passing by. How many bank robbers get caught based on the bank video? And that car that was caught on video on Washtenaw -- the one with the missing gas door and with a vinyl roof? I'm sure someone will see that rare combination and report that car. If you don't want it, we'll take it.

Peter Klaver

Tue, Nov 23, 2010 : 11:50 a.m.

I have followed the efforts of Students Against Surveillance for several years, and I have been impressed with their careful and deliberate approach to the issue. I am truly disappointed, however, to see their efforts met with such open contempt from certain adult commenters on this website, which appears to have been inspired solely by their status as college students. Apparently these young people are supposed to "study hard" in a vacuum, only to emerge after four years educated but at the same time "uninformed", after which "real life" beats them down until they have enough "experience" to begin posting comments on the internet. I would submit that instead, they might take an interest in community affairs, intentionally coincident with their studies, and in doing so increase the value of their education. Several of the commenters here appear to strongly support the use of closed-circuit television cameras in preventing, or at least solving, crimes. What they have not expressed, however, is any clear position on the proposed ordinance. They should be reminded that the ordinance does not seek an outright ban on CCTV cameras, but instead to develop an open and workable framework for their incorporation into law enforcement policy. This framework may include restrictions on where they are used, but it will also allow cameras that have been demonstrated to be effective to remain in place. Supporters of CCTV cameras should welcome this effort to provide accountability in an area that would otherwise be subject to mismanagement, leading to a waste of public money (at best) or erosion of Constitutional protections (at worst). Attempting to frame the discussion as "young versus old" or "town versus gown" fails to shed any light whatsoever on the very real issue of the future of surveillance, and in my opinion borders on cowardice.


Tue, Nov 23, 2010 : 1:08 a.m.

Utopia really doesn't exist... Cameras are not going to make the world a Utopia either. It saddens me to see that some people actually think putting cameras all over the place is going to make our world better. That people will become nicer and we'll all be safe. Maybe instead of worrying about installing cameras on corners - people should be more concerned with installing a moral compass - within themselves. Political correctness is used to control people's thoughts (well - they can't control them if you aren't allowed to speak them), we have the government getting involved in what we're allowed to put in our mouth (no more goodies or fast food) and now if you want to fly - even your own body is inspected by the government. How long before they mirco-chip us like dogs so that they know WHERE we are 24/7? Seriously - if our speech is monitored, if we're under surveilence all the time, if our bodies are subject to searches and they even want to tell us what we can and can't eat - how long do ya figure we have before they start lo-jacking us?

William Leaf

Tue, Nov 23, 2010 : 12:10 a.m.

There is nothing inevitable about mass surveillance. Technology is getting more powerful. That is undeniable. But that does not mean that every technology must be used for every purpose. We already depend on governments restricting the use of new technology. If governments abuse the powerful technology of nuclear weapons, we will all die. That does not mean that nuclear holocaust is inevitable. It means that we need to ensure that powerful new technologies are used for good and not evil. Other posters have said that is inevitable that we will live in a world where all actions outside the home are recorded. Do you want to live in a world like that? Do you trust the government to have the obscene power to know what you are doing at all times? Will you feel safer when you have given up your power of knowledge of your own life to the state? If your answer is no, then why will that society inevitably come to be? Aren't there others like you? Aren't we who will fight to keep our freedom stronger than those who give in to the feeling of sickening inevitability? Really, the conflict is not between people and technology. It is between people and people. We get to decide how we will use new technologies. Lets use surveillance cameras for small, targeted uses, and ban mass surveillance. We have the power to do so.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 11:43 p.m.

I always feel like, somebody's watching me....In this day and age of the video phone I really don't think that the city posting a cam has much interest at all. Michael Phelps was snapped hitting a bong in a private residence, is that right? You are not going to get the fourth amendment to protect you from activities that would be in plain view. I think the lesson to be learned here is your actions have consequences. If you wouldn't say or do it on an elevator full of people, or in front of your mother, maybe you shouldn't do it at all. It is all just a consequence of growing up and coming to age when you do. You take the good you take the bad and there you have....

Christopher Lock

Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 11:24 p.m.

Nephilim, I think we'd all agree that more important than the well-reasoned but old left/right fights is the urgent call to create a better world, and too often we reject opportunity in defense of old fears. An end to war, injustice, and violence is pretty much in everyone's interests, and the anti-camera argument is simply warning that corporate/state injustice could sneak in under the best intentions if we're not careful. That said, anyone who permits attacks on people or who tolerates a climate of fear in which generations (of women especially) alter their freedoms -- when tools to reduce or eliminate those ills await, with just a little bit of effort and precaution -- well, they simply haven't lived in some of the neighborhoods others have. And in response to the gun advocates who'd arm the population (lethal force for purse snatching? Lover's quarrels with pistols? Policies should be thought through a bit more) I'm doubtful that proportional justice can come from a gun. If only we perfected cameras with the money spent on bombs and wars we could build courts of justice in the neighborhoods and countries we've invaded and let the world monitor how those localities find a justice respected by all. It is justice they want, safety, freedom, and they've gotten very little of that with military patrols so far. See how journalistic footage changes things on the streets of Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, China... or Los Angeles. Transparency is cameras can bring, and when they don't bring transparency we must alter the equation so they do. Transparency leading to swift, reasonable justice: that will bring the better world. Not guns.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 10:08 p.m.

Mr. Lock, Very well thought out and very well explained. I am pretty conservative but here is an instance where I would stand directly beside you and support what you wrote. You are a self proclaimed extreme liberal, however what you show is the fact you are also an extreme realist. Very admirable.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 9:52 p.m.

A cop doesn't stand outside your place 24/7 and stare at you and all of your neighbors. I'm not saying it's okay to do things that are wrong - and I certainly try to refrain from doing them. But I don't want someone watching everything I do waiting for me to slip up.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 9:30 p.m.

Maybe I'm a bad liberal, but I don't really understand how surveillance cameras in public places are a violation of privacy. If a cop could stand there and see you without violating anyone's privacy, like in a park or in a neighborhood like in the article, I am not sure why it being a camera makes it such a big deal. I do care, though, if the cameras are expensive and ineffective. I would rather put that money toward more street lights and more cops to patrol the streets if the cameras wouldn't be effective. I don't have an opinion on that as I don't know anything about the effectiveness of the cameras, I hope that is being investigated by the powers that be. I do know Ann Arbor needs to do SOMETHING though, it's been made clear that it is too hard to bust people on all these armed robberies and whatnot and that just isn't acceptable.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 8:41 p.m.

And the Patriot Act was just supposed to protect us from terrorists... Might want to have a look at how that is being used and abused before you welcome another 'for your safety' government baby monitor. If you're worried about crime and being protected, I would suggest doing a bit of research on Kennesaw Georgia. They didn't mandate surveilence cameras, they mandated that homeowners' owned guns. The crime rate dropped even as the population boomed. People who are going to commit crimes aren't all that deterred by a camera - if you know where they are, you can avoid them or cover yourself. Banks are still robbed - and they have cameras. So are gas stations and small party stores. Shop lifters KNOW that stores have cameras and have learned to 'work around them'. A camera will not stop a crime from happening, it will not stop a crime in progress. Yep - it's great that some murderers are caught because of a camera - but that's very little solice considering the victim is dead and no camera, prosecution or sentence can bring them back. I know it would NEVER happen in Ann Arbor or any area near Ann Arbor, but I think the city of Kennesaw made the right decision. If I were a criminal and wanted to break into someone's home for whatever reason - I sure as heck would chose ANY home in a town where I know everyone is armed. Oh yeah - shootings pretty much unheard of there too. A study done 16 years after the law went into effect in 1982 - there were only 3 murders - two of those with knives the other with a gun. At the same time the population grew from approximately 5K to roughly 14K in that same time period.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 8:24 p.m.

Mr. Vielmetti - do you know if Ann Arbor already has cameras above certain traffic lights? And if they do, how many?


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 8:17 p.m.

A camera in a very high crime area - when the residents have asked for it and other options are exhausted - ok, fine. Otherwise, no. As we are seeing with the TSA controversy, camera surveillance is an issue that allows us to set aside petty party differences and act together, as Americans. One's opinion on this issue does NOT define you as a conservative or a liberal. Millions of conservatives strongly oppose increased camera surveillance. The same is true with liberals. No, the people who support this stuff are called AUTHORITARIANS. Remember that term. These are the people we should all be worried about. Yes, some authoritarians are card-carrying Republicans. But plenty are Democrats. They are easy to recognize, once you know what to look for. Authoritarians tend to favor policies that put the government (or big business) in a position of power over the individual. They are the ones most likely to support: 1) Widespread surveillance via technology (via cameras, internet monitoring, etc.) 2) Limiting free speech and freedom of movement or assembly (especially in public places) 3) Increased police - and eventually military - presence in civilian life Almost exclusively, authoritarians will justify their positions with statements based on accusation and fear. If you hear any of these arguments, it's a strong clue you're dealing with an authoritarian: 1) "Is your right to do X really worth more than the safety of your friends and family?" 2) "If you really want the right to do X, it's must be because you actually want to do (something illegal; violent; and/or obscene)." and of course: 3) "If you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to worry about." Beware these types of people and their mindset. Fascism grows from the way they think - in every country, in every era of human history. They must be opposed at every turn, or our freedoms will slowly evaporate.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 8:16 p.m.

Great idea, hope they are installed everywhere soon.

Christopher Lock

Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 7:47 p.m.

I think the camera debate should become a little more nuanced, I want as crime-free a society as possible while eliminating "peeping cops" we may have already. As an ACLU "extreme liberal" on most issues, I'm quite certain that the knee-jerk reaction against potentially useful technology will seem foolish when the imaging improves and communities capable of responsible use become much safer and more efficient at prosecution than communities that debate non-issues. In other words, there is going to come a day when responsible use of these things will so dramatically reduce crime and make policing so much more efficient that arguments against it will be like people who never do banking or make purchases online: their concerns aren't unwarranted, verified by occasional breaches of security, but the advantages in efficiency so outweigh the problems that society makes use of it anyway. #1. This imaging is in its infancy. Satellites can zoom on tiny details, I'm sure that inexpensive cameras giving fine-grain detail in all lighting conditions is in the near-future. Cost will usher the revolution. Think how a few dollars can buy a computer chip that would have cost millions a few generations ago. I wouldn't trust a fuzzy lone tamper-able camera here and there, but blanketing public spaces into a "memory field" from hundreds or thousands of inexpensive receptors would make alterations or disabling much harder. More importantly, exponential storage of this data, facial recognition, accessibility and a vastly-expanded surveillance area will change the ability into something more certain (it won't work fully until expansion that eventually covers pretty-much everywhere that isn't private, and those who may have in-home systems may eventually find them redundant with such a pervasive public system). #2. The usefulness of this technology (think how often fuzzy video imaging is already used in courtrooms) makes it almost inevitable. Civil Libertarians might as well get in front of it early and, instead of banning it outright, arrange its use to maximize its usefulness and control potential abuses. I'd strongly advocate RECORDING the field in multiple data sites (making tampering much harder) requiring an ELECTRONIC COURT ORDER to pull images when a complaint is lodged, ushering a crime investigation. A judge grants police requests to pull data on specified time and facial-tracking requests that are shown in court to reconstruct a crime. A paid or volunteer oversight group or groups watch the watchers to reduce or hopefully eliminate abuse. The goal: No one is watching you, but if a crime is committed, authorities can pull images to witness a crime and pursue suspects within minutes, and bring justice efficiently and accurately under the monitoring of law and civil rights groups. I look forward to a coming generation where crime is mostly eliminated (with the exception of crimes of passion) because everyone knows that anything worth lodging a complaint will always be punished... within minutes. The public monitoring fields will quickly cease to be thought of in relation to crime and become known for history records, sociological studies, and controversially, for personal memory "album" requests and biographies. A friend of mine works for the Campus Police and has pointed to some student sections in Ann Arbor where rapes, muggings and car break-ins happen with alarming regularity. Street lighting that is buried in overhead trees and the insistence of no cameras leave citizens vulnerable. It will only be a matter of time when victim's lawsuits force use of this improving technology, overseen responsibly by civil libertarians, if they're smart enough to value its usefulness.

The rest of the story

Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 6:38 p.m.

If there is no crime in the area to control, then no dice. The cameras should be limited in use to areas identified by the local affected residents (or police based on objective verifiable evidence)as active high crime areas(robbery drug sales)areas.

C. S. Gass

Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 5:21 p.m.

I'm not a student, I haven't been for some time. I am in law enforcement, and have been for some time. I will tell you that even I think that surveillance cameras everywhere are a horrible idea. Firstly, some might argue that I am 'the man' and cannot be trusted. They would be wrong for the most part but for that one out of fifty, crusader type out there, who makes it his(or her) job to prosecute every 'crime' they see, yes, that is big brother-esque and not helpful in any way to society. Secondly, a video camera gives people a false sense of security. No one may look at the recording for a day or a week given staffing issues. If you think that your rape or assault will not occur simply because you made it to the 'goul' of a 'camera-ed' area, think again. Criminals are not looking up at the cameras, they're looking at their target, you. Carry a gun or a can of pepper spray, you'll be better equipped to deal with a threat than someone with a map of the camera angles in the greater A2 area! Lastly, define 'high crime area'. Mine is where people get robbed, raped, and shot. You know, Ypsi-Township. The average pea-brain, A2 complainer would define it as 'those kids over there with their beer and their pot and their rock and roll". Guess what? If you don't want to get hit by rockets, don't live in Beruit. If you don't want contacts with silly college kids DOING WHAT COLLEGE KIDS DO, don't live in a college town! I applaud the efforts of anyone who wants to limit Big Brother's ability to spy on us. For once I agree with the ACLU. That never happens. That means something.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 4:10 p.m.

The Courts have held that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy of a citizen in areas open to the public. Police may use surveiilance cameras located in public areas and there is no violation of the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. A legislative body, such as the Ann Arbor City Council, can undou- btedly, however, limit or ban the use of surveiilance cameras by police within the city. It's a judgment call weighing the pros and cons. Remember this however: without dashboard surveillance cameras on county sheriff's dept. vehicles, no criminal charges would have been available in the West Willow incident involving the Lee brothers and no conviction of one deputy. Also recall a deputy advising Ann Arbor City Prosecutor Robert West that everything was being recorded in response to West's pleas that he be released at the site of his traffic stop when he was suspected of drunk driving. The question here is should there be a ban on these cameras being placed in public areas. The downside is that police can record embarrassing non-criminal activity such as couples engaging in intimate activities, persons drinking alcohol or acting obnoxious, which could be used to harm a person's career or public reputation. The upside is that illegal activity committed by anyone can be detected and their guilt or innocence readily ascertained by these cameras. It is a deterrent to illicit activities by either police or citizens. I believe that the recommendations of law enforcement officials and cilvil libertarians, such as the ACLU, should be weighed by City Council before such an ordinance should be enacted. It does sound somewhat Orwellian to have such devices, however.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 3:10 p.m.

Egad. I wish folks would stop feeding Big Brother until he gets so big he will be unstoppable. We can allow the goverments all the power in the world, but we will still not be 100% safe, especially from them. Frankly, I'd rather prevent a crime by having more officers on patrol than maybe catch one at a later date after the deed has been done. But then again, that will cost money.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 3:08 p.m.

Ed, that's an interesting article, but hardly relating to stationary cameras located in public places. The individuals from that school district that authorized secret webcams should be held accountable. It appears that they were.

Jake C

Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 2:57 p.m.

"I applaud the UM students efforts to initiate the dialog. I believe that a conversation about video surveillance is worth having, but I don't think that it should start with an assumption that the practice is evil or misdirected. " Agreed. Don't assign to evil what can be explained by incompetence. How about we just start with an assumption that any government expansion, whether it be a new City Hall building, a federal Health Care bill, or surveillance & speed-trap cameras monitored by god-knows-who should require the governing body to prove why it is necessary and effective and doesn't unreasonable target innocent civilians. "Because I said so" isn't a proper answer.

Marshall Applewhite

Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 2:37 p.m.

I suppose it's possible to understand having cameras in downtown areas, but residential cameras seem unnecessary. If Ann Arbor had rampant gang activity they might make sense, but it seems like a waste for such a relatively crime free area.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 2:21 p.m.

@Joe: Hey Joe, your example of a stop & frisk is a poor one. I believe that would be covered under the 4th Amendment of the Bill of Rights(Protection from unreasonable search and seizure). As Mick52 points out, you should read the entirety of something you post. There is much in it that conflicts with your stance. The UK reports that have been referenced so far, are at least 5 years old and they are conflicted regarding the effectiveness of CCV based on data that's a couple years older than the report. I expect that improved technology and methods have improved on that record. Like any emerging technology, it takes time to utilize it to its fullest advantage. I haven't been able to find a single report of one of these cameras being used to eavesdrop on a private home or business. Is there a case in the US that you know of? If anyone wants to make a video or audio recording in a public place, they have that right. Would you restrict the right of a citizen to do so? I'm a firm believer in making our government officials accountable to the public trust. I'm also believe that we should allow people to do their job within the limits of the existing laws. I applaud the UM students efforts to initiate the dialog. I believe that a conversation about video surveillance is worth having, but I don't think that it should start with an assumption that the practice is evil or misdirected. The conspiracy theorists are welcome to their thoughts but shouldn't be the ones directing the conversation.

William Leaf

Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 1:13 p.m.

Any security system will work sometimes. That is why anecdotes are not a good base for policy, even if they are very upsetting. According to the big academic studies on the subject, CCTV does not prevent violent crime, and at most has a minor impact on property crime. The report actually says, under "effectiveness of cameras" "Given the important role that crime prevention plays in law enforcement, surprisingly little is known about the effectiveness of new technologies such as CCTV video surveillance to prevent or discourage crime. " Here is more recent academic evidence of CCTV's inneffectiveness (1)Assessing the Impact of CCTV (2)One Thousand Cameras solve one crime We cannot make policy decisions based on anecdotes when there is real evidence available on the subject. What about the victims of crime who would have been helped by a more effective use of police money? Where is their heart-wrenching story? Why would anyone trust mass surveillance when the academic research says it does not stop crime? People are scared. They are willing to do anything to stop crime. We are saying that videotaping anyone who goes outside is not an effective or reasonable way of stopping crime. We cannot ignore reason and recklessly pursue anything that seems like it could make us safer. For the people who think we are paranoid, or for some reason writing an ordinance and getting deeply involved in local politics so we can drink and run around naked, look at the picture at the top of the page. I took that photograph. The man in it brought me to Lansing to show people what happened in his neighborhood. He told me that he felt like he was in prison in his own home. Police cameras pinned him there. It's happened in Britain, it's happened in Chicago, and its happened in Lansing. It can happen here. We are trying to make sure it doesn't. I hope you support us.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 1:07 p.m.

Cheers to the U-M students and others who have been active lately on this issue. Widespread public surveillance will be placed on the political agenda during the next decade or two, so it's best to take preventive measures now and establish a clear policy ahead of time. Once public cameras begin to be installed, they will no doubt be harder to eradicate than bedbugs. This is a good example of taking a stand to protect what remains of our civil liberties. Let us not one day become like London, with its thousands of voyeuristic street cameras. That represents a gradual, ongoing encroachment of an enforcement mentality deservedly satirized in 1984 and Clockwork Orange. ------------ It's sadly amusing to read the comments here from some of this site's more conservative posters. Typically, they'll whine endlessly about government regulations and anything that remotely resembles public "interference" in the hallowed "free" market. Government programs of all kinds (except those that subsidize wealthy businessmen) are routinely condemned and ridiculed. But now such conservatives rally with enthusiam to the defense of a genuinely Orwellian government initiative. In so doing, their economic libertarianism is again revealed as a fraud in regard to its false reputation for advocacy of greater social freedoms. Instead, it's really all about enhancing the ability of corporations to exploit the population as they see fit, and has nothing whatsoever to do with protecting and expanding civil liberties. But, of course, the political right is famous for sticking its nose into people's lives.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 1:03 p.m.

If the bad guy knows the camera is there, maybe it might be a deterrent from someone committing a crime In the first place. The City of Chicago has blue flashing lights on top of the camera box, they are very noticeable like a blue light special at K-mart. The cameras might make someone think twice before they commit a crime.

Tex Treeder

Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 12:53 p.m.

@robyn Exactly right. Our civil rights are being slowly but surely whittled away, usually in the name of "security" or "safety." Just look at TSA, for example. How much security do they really provide which couldn't be provided in a much more effective way without astonishingly intrusive scans and pat-downs? It's worth repeating Benjamin Franklin: "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 12:47 p.m.

@Joe, have you read the articles you posted links to? Fist link: Go down to around page 134. Those pages discuss issues, but also where CCTV was and how it can be effective and should be improved. If you read the article of your second link you will read this: "He said: "CCTV, we recognise, is a really important part of investigation and prevention of crime, so how we retrieve that from the individual CCTV pods is really quite important." And this: "A spokesman for the Met said: "We estimate more than 70% of murder investigations have been solved with the help of CCTV retrievals and most serious crime investigations have a CCTV investigation strategy." That sounds like an excellent reason to support surveillance cameras to me. I have posted many times before that the problem with crime prevention attempts is that it is almost impossible to know if a crime was prevented. For example, a mugger or rapist might spot a prime victim, but then notice a video camera and not commit the crime. Prevented but no way to put that in statistics. Thanks for the links. Those of us 100% behind police officers thank you for the info.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 12:25 p.m.

@Ignatz: The point is that the camera identified a murderer. In a public building, street or where ever they are placed, they have proven they are a significant tool. I believe a vehicle bomber was caught in NYC too recently: Hmm. Public street. How bad is that one? It is good the bomb did not go off. The suspect was caught on tape from a camera pointed at the street. @Joe. I do not care what UK Home Office study says and I think if you are going to promote such give us a link to be able to look at it. Like this one: It goes way back to 1997 and if you look at the tables alone, you will see a lot of robbers avoid shooting up stores with video. And I know there are a lot of video in England. So if they don't like it why are they expanding? Here is another link for you!,2933,289240,00.html Also after your subways get bombed, you are likely going to get more video: Why? Because it is nearly impossible to stop these things from happening, but if you can get some photos of those responsible, then you have chance to ID them and trace back to others responsible. So no cameras and let them get away with it, more cameras and hopefully prevent more death. People seem to think policing and solving crimes is very easy. If the people do not want more surveillance, fine. But don't criticize the police for not coming up with the criminals. As far as I am concerned, the identification of Ms. Dickinson's killer is proof enough they are a valuable asset.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 12:18 p.m.

Is it just me or are there people that automatically assume that the protest against video surveilence is a 'liberal' thing? (Ie... "they'll finish school and go work for the ACLU.") It's not a liberal or a conservative issue. It is a Constitutional issue. Though it is not directly address in the Constitution - for obvious reasons, it is a very interesting issue. Here is a link that delves more deeply into the matter of privacy and our right to have privacy - even in public: What people don't really think about is that each time a 'freedom' is taken from us - it only opens the door to more freedoms being taken.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 11:56 a.m.

If there is no ordinance in place restricting the use of surveillance cameras, any city or police agency can install them and the general public will have nothing to say about it. In many cities and towns, such as Saline, the only thing stopping the installation of these cameras is cost. If economic times were better, these types of camera systems would be everywhere. Not because the cameras actually workbut, because the police love new toys such as surveillance camera systems. And without restrictions, it will be Candid Camera on a massive scale. And what about private surveillance systems? In Saline, private homeowners and businesses are allowed to install as many cameras as they wish. AND POINT THEM ANYWHERE THEY WISH. In Saline, the City Attorney has actually ruled that a private homeowner or business owner may point their surveillance cameras in any direction they wishand survey anything their cameras can pick-up (including private bedroom windows) without justification or recourse. Why, because there are no ordinances in place restrict those systems and the resulting abuses. It is city-sanctioned voyeurism. Or worse, city-sanctioned intimidation.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 11:47 a.m.

Until that one crime happens to be against you Joe.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 11:22 a.m.

@SemperFi: the idea that we have no expectation of privacy in public is false. for example, the police cannot stop and search your person just because you're on a public street--we should afford the same type of protection to our ability to move about without constant monitoring. You want evidence? (1)Assessing the Impact of CCTV (2)One Thousand Cameras solve one crime What a surprise that an opinion, one which by your own admission was not backed up by any evidence, turns out to be at odds with available evidence.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 11:21 a.m.

I'm glad that there are students that are becoming 'involved'. And they should be. What people tend to forget is that these young men and women ARE the very near and very real future. It is these kids that will have a hand in shaping our immediate future. I want them to really understand what's at stake - whether they view it as an infringement of privacy, the government overstepping the powers that are supposed to limit what the government can or can not do. I for one am happy to see students thinking about this stuff and getting active and involved. They are expanding their education - gaining knowledge and experience that can't be learned in a book. That is beneficial for them and for us.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 11:04 a.m.

So much paranoia and so little time. Pubic areas by definition are PUBLIC. So, nobody's privacy is being violated by surveillance cameras overseeing public streets. If you want privacy, go somewhere that's private(like your living room), not a street corner. It makes reasonable sense that surveillance in public areas combined with "real police work and street lighting" is a deterent to crime and an assist to public safety. Mr. Campbell says that surveillance cameras have proven to be ineffective in other cities. Where's the proof? He cites no references. Even Rana Elmir of the ACLU says that, "cameras' effect on crime is inconclusive..." No one has bothered to cite the reports on the 'growing body of evidence'. I also keep reading about how expensive these cameras are. Compared to what? Putting more police on the street? Without having researched it, I suspect that there are also studies that can show a direct correlation between installation of security cameras and reduction or suppression of crime in areas where they are used. Much ado about nothing.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 11:02 a.m.

Yea yer right Rusty, none of the students would ever be up to anything "nefarious" in their day to day activities on campus......Virginia tech, university of Texas, auburn university, duke university, Kent state, Jackson state.....should I continue Rusty? The fact of the mattter, if you are so worried about public surveillance then stay inside. How about all the private cameras that record public places? What about all the people that shove camera phones in everybodies face when something is happening? CRY FOUL on this to. I love seeing these YouTube videos people post of crimes in progress. THEY ARE VIDEO TAPING IT!!! Not calling 911, not trying to help the victim. Ive seen it over and over again down town. You have a 100 U of M students with cell phones not caring an ounce about other peoples privacy but ohhhhhhh now the government wants to hang a camera for legitimate reasons and all you conspiracisy screamers come out in force. The absolute hilarious thing about everyone whining in Ann Arbor is the fact that there are no cameras and there are no plans of getting them. Like I said before, waste your ACLU energy on something worthwhile like protecting foreign terrorists on US soil.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 10:49 a.m.

"Surveillance cameras are horrific to some people, but sure are great when they reveal a perpetrator of a heinous crime. Well at least they can be effective, eh, Mr Campbell?" @Mick52: While cameras can be effective in some instances, the empirical evidence (consult the UK Home-Office study, amongst others) suggests that, in general, they are an ineffective tool in reducing and solving crimes. This fact is lost on many people.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 10:47 a.m.

@Mick52: I remember that EMU murder case. However, as you pointed out, the camera was inside a building, not on the street. It was private property belonging to to EMU and not on a public street. If we need poice work to be easier, then let's just abandon the Constitution. Those who "protect" us will have an easier time of catching and convicting "criminals".


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 10:37 a.m.

Excellent example of why the huge majority of students pay no attention to MSA. I wonder if Brendon Campbell, who thinks surveillance cameras are ineffective, has heard of the Dickinson family of Hastings, MI. The Campbell's daughter, Laura, an EMU student, was murdered by another EMU student in Dec of 2006. The murderer was caught due to the use of surveillance cameras. The camera was in a dormitory, which is a residential area. But Campbell is not the only MSA student who is too young and inexperienced in life to make uninformed statements. Mr Otean's quote: "expensive surveillance systems to replace real police work and street lighting," indicates such unless he can explain how real police work does the job a camera does. I guess he is recommending a police officer at every location where a camera would be. At EMU the real police work identified the murderer after the camera recorded his presence in the building. Ever heard of Laura Dickinson, Mr Otean? I suspect this youth has no idea what real police work is other than what he sees on television. And where do students like these two end up after graduation? Working for the ACLU, but I will not go there. Surveillance cameras are horrific to some people, but sure are great when they reveal a perpetrator of a heinous crime. Well at least they can be effective, eh, Mr Campbell? In regard to neighborhoods, why not leave that up to a survey of the people in the neighborhoods? Surveillance camera images do not always give you a picture you can rely on to give you an ID but it gives you a heck of a lot more than no image, such as one offender or two, clothing styles and colors and types of vehicles. I would recommend to city council that they shelve the ordinance idea and concentrate on the police dept's policy on how/where to put and aim cameras and put their concerns in the policy. For example you might want a provision for temporary camera use if burglaries are common in a certain neighborhood. Sorry I am getting so long but there is another side of this many sided coin to be considered. Video cameras have recorded and help restrain police misbehavior too. An Oakland, CA police officer was recently convicted of shooting and killing a person being arrested by a group of officers. It was recorded on video.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 10:29 a.m.

glad to see that the trolls who have nothing better to do than question the motives of politically involved students are alive and well. if you can;t understand or don't care why we, as a community, value our privacy and want to be proactive in controlling the erosion of that privacy by technology, then that's fine--you should feel free to continue posting comments on news articles. Just don't post anything that could be considered a national security violation, remember, there was a time when NSA surveillance and monitoring was a non-issue too. But I'm sure that surveillance cameras will never be abused... Oh, and Greek God: the proposed ordinance would be a city ordinance, governing the whole city--not just the University.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 10:24 a.m.

I'm waiting to see the resolution that the Phoenix City Council passes before I decide whether I am for or against this.

The Watchman

Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 10:12 a.m.

Another "front page" non story for Instead of news, we will see this at the "top of the fold" all day long. Oh my.

rusty shackelford

Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 10:02 a.m.

Gee, I wonder why groups that are consistently targetted unfairly by police might object to constant surveillance. Yes, they must be up to some nefarious plot.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 9:56 a.m.

Sorry Mr. Leaf, u can start, create and or invent any student group you want. The fact of the matter is you really don't have a say in the matter. What you do have a right to is an excellent education from a great university, that more likely than not, your even more noble parents are flipping the bill for. Study hard, do your homework, play with your friends and when reality finally strikes which will be in the form of graduating and you have to enter the real world. You won't much care about cameras, like the rest of the normal hard working people who don't think there's a government conspiracy around every corner.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 9:04 a.m.

Facial recognition software is also being coupled with surveillance cameras. I would not doubt that we either have now or will soon have databases of facial features that can be coupled with surveillance cameras to sweep up suspects. There are a lot of false positives with this software, so once you are in a database you may have to prove you are not the person on the camera repeatedly if you have commmon facial features. Also, how does one's face get into such a database. Will there be any constitutional controls. Technology is becoming ever more powerful but is surveillance technology really making our lives better?

Steve Pepple

Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 8:58 a.m.

A comment that violated our conversation guidelines was removed. Profanity, even masked, is not allowed.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 8:56 a.m.

Thank goodness the City of Ann Arbor does not have to comply with University of Michigan policies regarding the governance of security cameras in and around campus. As a citizen and taxpayer, I am actually very suspicious as to why the student body feels this ordinance is so important? Clearly with so many issues requiring attention these days, e.g. Haiti, North Korea, and Iraq I'm just surprised that security cameras would take the forefront?


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 8:40 a.m.

Who here has watched the Simpsons episode "To Surveil With Love"? Hilarious!


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 8:33 a.m.

Were I a privacy-obsessed U-M student calmly going about the workaday business of Hash Bash or a carefree frolic like the Nude Mile, why, I might find myself not entirely in favor of surveillance videos, either. Let my future employment prospects be dictated by my Facebook page, I might say.


Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 8:21 a.m.

More on the necessity of the Ann Arbor Freedom From Surveillance in William Leaf's op-ed for and Joe Klaver's op-ed today for the Michigan Daily-