- The Washington Times - Friday, May 23, 2003

Ocean City, Maryland, will install eight security cameras this summer to monitor traffic and criminal activity.

“This is the beginning of video surveillance in Ocean City,” said Richard Malone, assistant to Public Works Director George Savastano.

The city’s Public Works Department plans to install six cameras at the West Ocean City park and ride parking lot, just west of the U.S. Route 50 bridge, one on the Boardwalk near the pier and one on North Division Street near Philadelphia Avenue. The work should be done by mid-July.

“This system is exclusively for buses and tracking the activities at the parking lot,” Mr. Malone said.

But the surveillance system will be shared with the Ocean City Police Department to gather evidence on vandalism and drug crimes in public areas, he said.

Two cameras — one on a light pole on North Division Street facing the Route 50 bridge and the other on the Boardwalk at the police station facing Philadelphia Avenue — can pan, tilt and zoom in on people milling around, he added.

Privacy advocates say the constant scrutiny by the government leads to abusive public policy and infringement on people’s privacy.

“There has not been enough conclusive evidence to show that the cameras deter crime,” said Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a San Diego-based nonprofit advocacy group.

“If you look at England — the highest camera-per-capita area in the world — crime tends to shift to areas without cameras. Plus there is a greater chance for operators to use cameras for voyeuristic purposes,” she said.

Last year, Virginia Beach began using cameras with technology that matches faces in crowds with criminal photos in a police database.

The planned Ocean City cameras will lack the identification software used by Virginia Beach and Tampa, Fla., but will be remote-controlled and linked to the city government’s network, allowing police and other agencies access.

Johnny Barnes, executive director of Washington-area affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, raised questions about how Ocean City would use the information caught on camera.

“They could start fining jaywalkers if the budget gets tight. These cameras open up a number of revenue opportunities for the government,” he said.

The D.C. government uses 39 traffic cameras throughout the District to curb speeding and drum up revenue by mailing citations to drivers.

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