Focus on Surveillance - St. John's Entirely Boring Crime Camera Purchase

Posted by: TC

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If going wild in the streets of St. John was on your 2009 To-Do list, then you might want to get that one out of the way soon – not only is the year almost out, but according to a recent article the parish just got a decent-sized grant to get its very own crime cameras installed:

 [Jeff Clement, chief civil deputy for the St. John Sheriff's Office] said two grants totaling $251,782, from the Edward Byrne Memorial Assistance Grant Program, will pay for a portion of the surveillance cameras. The Sheriff's Office is covering the remaining costs, he said.

"It's going to assist law enforcement and give people a sense of security, " said Jones, adding that the system will start off small and grow over time. "It will help as a deterrent and help in crime-solving."

Initially, the Sheriff's Office plans to install 20 wireless cameras, Clement said. He said they will be linked to the parish's 911 system.

The seemingly effective partnership between the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office and Parish Council is in stark contrast to the New Orleans crime camera lawsuit that has been grabbing headlines in the Times-Picayune for several months, a lawsuit that as of late seems like little more than a high-profile rogues gallery of heavy hitters from the national scene, including both Ray Nagin and Michael Dell.

Though Nagin was dropped from the crime camera case yesterday since the plaintiffs’ attorney decided his testimony wasn’t necessary, I’m sure we all still remember Michael Dell’s video testimony that was delivered earlier this month:

"I have salespeople that come and say, you know, we should make cars that are powered by batteries; that's a huge opportunity worth billions of dollars," Dell said. "But that's not our business."

He went on to say that in regards to crime cameras, "I wouldn't say we have any business being in that business."

The high-powered CEO also denied talking about crime cameras during a brief meeting with Mayor Ray Nagin in New Orleans in July 2004. Michael Dell said the meeting was only about the use of technology in education, even though a Dell Inc. memo indicated that Michael Dell was briefed before the meeting about the company's sale of video camera "housing units" to New Orleans.

"I don't even know what a housing unit is. Is that a house?" Michael Dell said in his deposition, which took place months ago at Dell Inc. world headquarters in Round Rock, Texas.

  I don’t know about anyone else, but when you have such a high-profile trial featuring nationally-recognizable officials, it seems as though the officials themselves should be in some way relevant to the case. The only way in which Dell, the CEO of a company with over 70,000 employees, could be connected to the actions of a few workers in our back yard was by a single mention of cameras in a single briefing, with no indication that it came up in the meeting with Nagin, nor any indication that he had any connection to it before or after that briefing. Furthermore, the plaintiffs’ decision not to seek Mayor Nagin’s testimony shows at best that the case can be made without it, and at worst that it was never really relevant in the first place.

Now in no way am I exonerating anyone or claiming to make any stance on the case at hand, as I’d much prefer to let the courts do their jobs without trying to call the outcome (and I’m really more of a Monday morning quarterback than a backseat driver anyway). What I am saying, though, is that having a case in which big-name witnesses are called that can only be very loosely tied in as relevant is not only a waste of the court’s time, but it’s also a form of grandstanding that doesn’t exactly give our area the best image to the rest of the country, especially when we’re already asking for special treatment in the upcoming census and still taking billions in federal aid. Though rooting out corruption within city governments is of paramount importance, let’s not go too crazy with the conspiracy theories.

I’d much rather New Orleans take a page from St. John Parish and get its crime cameras installed quietly, properly, and correctly. Yes, it’s much more boring, but it’s much better for the area on both the local and national stages.

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