You’re likely to appear on camera anytime you deposit a check, shop for groceries or run into a gas station to grab a pop.
Surveillance cameras are nearly everywhere these days, and more are coming to parks, trails and local government buildings.
Greenwood plans to double the number of security cameras at its parks and trails to deter vandalism, and the Greenwood Police Department soon will install a surveillance system at its training center. Franklin is adding cameras at Scott Park and Greenlawn Cemetery and recently put digital ones in at city hall.
Johnson County government doesn’t have any plans to add any at this time, but 25 already watch your every step at the county’s offices in downtown Franklin, information technology director Rob Norris said.
“You know you should be on your best behavior when you’re on camera,” he said. “Big Brother is watching.”
The cameras are becoming increasingly prevalent because they’re less expensive and more technologically advanced, Greenwood parks and recreation executive director Evan Springer said. The city now can easily deal with graffiti on a shelter house or in a park restroom by spending a few hundred dollars on a security camera to discourage it from happening again.
Cameras are getting to be so ubiquitous that anxious homeowners can watch a live stream of their house from their smartphone at any time or place, Greenwood Police Department Assistant Chief Matt Fillenwarth said.
They’re already trained on you in just about every type of store, where they’re needed for insurance purposes, Fillenwarth said. “You can’t go into any store any more without being recorded.”
No one is necessarily watching when you’re on a surveillance camera. They are monitored in some situations, such as by the secretary at the Franklin City Hall.
Mayor Joe McGuinness said the building is set up in such a way that no city employees can greet visitors until they’ve come up to the second floor, so the secretary watches to see who enters the lobby.
But in many cases the cameras are intended to provide a record of what happened, and no one is watching the live surveillance footage. Seeing what’s happening in real time isn’t even really necessary anymore with how advanced the technology has become, Fillenwarth said.
For example, some digital cameras are idle until activated by the faintest flicker of motion, as little as a shadow in some cases. Franklin Parks and Recreation director Chip Orner said he gets a text message alert if cameras picked up motion at the city pool after 10 p.m.
Orner said he could log on to his computer from home and call up the surveillance footage to check out what’s going on at the pool. He’d call police on any trespassers who tried to jump the fence for a little night swimming but ignore it if it were just a raccoon.
The footage gets saved on a computer hard drive for a few weeks or longer, so police can go back and review if necessary. Franklin police were able to use security footage to figure out who broke into a vehicle in the community center parking lot and who stole a wallet in the gymnasium, Orner said.
Police appreciate the technology since they can quickly go back to the date and time when a crime happened instead of wasting time fast-forwarding through hours of VHS tape when typically nothing is happening, Fillenwarth said. They also don’t have to waste time responding to as many false alarms, since the property owner can check the surveillance footage before calling police.
Officers also can get on the
laptop in their patrol cars and plug into cameras in schools or at banks during incidents, Fillenwarth said.
They would have the great advantage of knowing how many people there are, what they’re armed with and where the hostages are located in such incidents, he said.
“They’re a great tool for law enforcement,” he said. “If there’s a robbery, we can identify suspects and get footage from surrounding businesses to figure out where they went or what they were driving.”
The police plan to install nine cameras through their training center so they can review what happened if any accidental firearm discharges take place, Fillenwarth said. People’s memories could be skewed under times of such stress, but a recording would provide a record of what actually happened, he said.
“They make everything so much easier,” he said.