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Mandated Surveillance; Good Intention, Bad Idea

By   /   March 3, 2012  /   Comments Off



Respectfully, I must take a differing opinion from Jim Wilcox in last week’s Albany Journal. In his column, “Good Surveillance”, Wilcox referred to comments made by Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards that if more businesses had good video security systems, there would be fewer robberies in Albany. Wilcox suggested that perhaps our city leaders should mandate these systems to more local businesses.

While I agree with both Edwards and Wilcox that video surveillance systems certainly deter crime, to mandate that a private businessman have one installed, at his or her own expense, is in effect saying that someone else knows how to run that business better than the owner. Even if they do know better, it’s not their place to say. It’s called freedom.

We already have a file cabinet full of regulations and ordinances on the books that make doing business in Albany more difficult than it should be. If a business person does not feel the need for that level of security that should be the end of the discussion. Sadly, the crime rate here and the frustration we all feel over the safety and well-being of our community, will most likely keep this issue brewing.

If I had a retail storefront, I’m sure I would have a video surveillance system. I think it’s the smart way to go. But being smart about our choices is just that; our choice. As I’ve said many times, quoting my father; “In this country, you have the right to be dead wrong.” That core principle of freedom can come with a high price tag. Those of us that think we know better sometimes find ourselves watching in dismay as others move off in wrong directions by their own choosing, and there is nothing we can do about it. It’s called freedom.

If it is the role of our government to step in and stop us when they believe we are making a mistake, why stop at mandating video surveillance systems? What about teen age drivers? Don’t they know the odds of them being hurt or killed in an accident as a teen is much higher than older drivers? They should not be allowed to buy that souped-up motorcycle, even though dad said it was okay. We know better, and they should be mandated to purchase a vehicle that has a high safety rating. It’s the smart thing to do, and would probably lower all of our insurance premiums, but it would be one more attack on our freedom to live life as we decide.

If we mandate video surveillance to the business community, how long before we mandate it in our homes to keep us safe? And if it is deemed appropriate for politicians to make this business decision for businesses, why not mandate that stores keep certain hours when statistics show those are the smart times to do business, or that they be required to set up shop in areas deemed to be the safest? These desires to control the foolish decisions of others may be well-intentioned, but I will always trust a business owner to do what is best for business, long before I trust a non-business person to do what is best for business.

If we are really worried about somebody behaving in a way that is not in our city’s interest because there are no cameras to record their actions, perhaps we should install cameras in all governmental offices and corporate board rooms, particularly closed door meetings. Talk about good television. There are plenty of ways the taxpayers of Albany can be robbed, and their security put at risk, that do not require a gun and get-away car.


Lon McNeil is an independent marketing consultant in Albany and can be reached at lonmcneil@gmail.com.

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