Target: Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris
Goal: Protect privacy rights by restricting domestic aerial surveillance
A new, first-of-its-kind video surveillance system has been unveiled in the city of Lancaster, California, which aims to catch and film emergency situations from a small Cessna plane. The aircraft, which has been equipped with sophisticated cameras to capture real-time video footage, is set to fly a loop above the city while beaming a live video feed to a Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department dispatch center.
Although the camera will inevitably film scenes of mundane daily life, officials claim it will only be used to track crimes in progress, traffic collisions, and other emergency situations. However, the fact remains that people willed be filmed without their knowledge; a direct infringement of privacy rights. In order to protect the people without violating their privacy, the new surveillance program must be utilized with strict monitoring of the new technology.
For the past few years, Lancaster officials have been exploring ways to better patrol their widespread city, and although it is common for law enforcement to use aerial surveillance during breaking crime situations, Lancaster is the first city to use a camera continuously as a part of daily policing. Lancaster’s mayor explained that the system will help deter criminals as well as catching those in the act of illegal behavior, “This will allow us within five seconds of a call to get some eyes on location. If some robber is fleeing deputies, we get to learn where, thanks to this technology.” He goes on to explain that, “in law enforcement, for a long time it has been known that it is a deterrent if a criminal believes there is a strong likelihood of apprehension.”
Although the new surveillance program was developed strictly to monitor criminal behavior, the threat of privacy infringement is very real. Most troubling is the idea of law enforcement tracking people for non-emergency reasons. There is also concern that the cameras will be deployed to view “problem areas” when no crime, accident or emergency is happening. The city also plans to store all the footage for two years, and retaining such data on people not suspected of a crime is extremely invasive.
In order to prevent a Big Brother presence in the Lancaster community, Lancaster officials and Mayor R. Rex Parris must develop stringent privacy restrictions on the surveillance program. Please sign the petition below to help protect the privacy rights of Americans, and limit the use of this live footage, overhead surveillance system.
Dear Mayor R. Rex Parris,
The new policing system developed to catch criminals through aerial surveillance infringes on citizens’ privacy rights, and must be further scrutinized before being fully deployed. Filming and storing footage of daily life trespasses on peoples comfort, and is simply too invasive at these beginning stages. Strict regulations on the new system must be employed.
Although it is common practice for law enforcement to use video surveillance during emergency situations, using live video feed throughout the day as a form of daily policing is akin to stalking, and the problems that can arise from such surveillance are severe and truly frightening. For example, it is most troubling that law enforcement has the means to track people for non-emergency reasons, how cameras are scheduled to view “problem areas” when no crime, accident, or emergency is happening, and lastly, how the city plans to store all footage for two years. Retaining such data and information on individuals not suspected of a crime is extremely invasive.
Take action now to prevent the rise of a Big Brother presence in Lancaster. The new aerial surveillance program must be restricted to protect privacy rights. You must ensure that the proper protocols are enforced to prevent the unethical use of the camera and footage.
[Your Name Here]