Why We Should Care About CCTVs in Our Private Subdivisions

On my way home, I saw a CCTV from a lamp post above a key intersection in my subdivision. "Was there a referendum?" I unconsciously asked out loud. My friend laughed. It is quite funny. As if  the gravity of the camera in question is as big news as the Greek bailouts.

You're probably expecting a blog post about how my village has now become an Orwellian Big Brother State and that placing CCTVs in different places of my village is unconstitutional. I'm not. I'm actually all for it.

Intruders got into our house several years ago and got some valuables. Thankfully, we're alive to tell the story. Something like placing CCTVs in a village is definitely a deterrent to crime and could help in arbitrating minor vehicle accidents, etc.

To be honest, I'd rather put more budget in security than making sure the basketball court is painted well, etc.

But support does not mean I do not question. Why should we care? 

Photo by Nolifebeforecoffee under CC by 2.0 (author claims stencil is by Bansky)

Homeowners pay monthly dues (the same way we pay taxes to government) and if there can't be participation and transparency in a private homeowners association level, it makes sense why we can't have it on a national level (and, yes, I'm being a somewhat of a hypocrite here cos I'm just writing about it after the fact).

My concerns:
  • Policy: Was there a forum where everyone was invited to discuss the proposal, terms, conditions, and limitations of those who will have access to it? Were there even drafts? If yes, were they mailed to every household? Even if we're all busy, an email of a draft wouldn't hurt.
  • Access: Is it publicly available or is there a criteria for you to claim video footage for viewing/copying? What are the privacy clauses put in place? Is there a guard watching 24-hours? Do the elected officials have access? Should they?  How long is the footage kept/archived per camera?
    •  I've mentioned this in this blog but the "you don't need privacy if you have nothing to hide" argument reverses the role of rights to begin with, if that's on your mind.
  • Suppliers/Costs: Who are the suppliers and what are the costs? Was there a bidding process?
  • Effectiveness: Are the specs of these CCTVs cost-effective in terms of making us safe? How detailed are night shots? Would a thermal camera be more effective at night? What are best practices and equipment in other subdivisions?
  • Referendum/plebiscite:  Once there is a final draft, let the people decide. Again, I'm not questioning the CCTV intent or their role as a deterrent to crime. The referendum just makes sure that there is a check and balance with where the money is going if it will really work and that the above concerns are addressed.
Well, they might say people are too busy to participate. We have day jobs and businesses to run and we're just happy to see something is up there on a lamp post that makes us feel safer. There's a basketball court. Speed bumps are always newly painted. I was just reflecting and realized that if we can't demand for transparency on this type of micro-level, what more national? I am reminded of my old blog posts of how I believed so much that a proper FOI bill could lead to good governance.  

Side story: a few years ago, funds were raised to build a small Catholic church. I think this is a great venue where people can express freedom of assembly and worship as a community. It's just the opportunity cost I'm concerned about. And, again, the concerns above as well.

The funds raised could have been used, instead, to build a mini fire-station so we won't have to rely on slow government services. If it's traffic outside, government firetrucks will take a really long time. Or, again, beef up security. Thermal cameras could help spot criminals at night or better guard training. I don't know the feasibility of these but I hope I'm just able to emphasize the point on the opportunity cost here.

Again, hypocritical. I, myself, don't participate or propose such things.

When writing about things I feel I have no solutions to or don't really act on, it's easy to be trapped in cynicism, especially in the state of politics in our country. It gets very existential: what am I blogging for, really? If I get lucky, I'll get a handful of views on this. I guess the goal is not immediate action. It's really injecting ideologies in simple analogies in everyday life like the ones above in the hopes that one reader would rethink, not necessarily act, but just rethink what he/she has known about politics and governance.

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