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By Oscar Chemiak

Video surveillance is an industry. We're watching our property; we're watching our streets, our schools and each other. When did it start, why did it start and more importantly, when did we stop trusting each other?

Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) has been active in the United Kingdom for years, in fact, it's where surveillance came in to use as we see it today. This technology has proven so effective that North America is quickly adopting the trend. There are cameras on streets, in public places (like stores, ATM machines, and public washrooms) and now, homes. All of this surveillance is supposed to instil us with a feeling of security, we're protected, big brother is watching and therefore no crime will be committed against our property or us. In the UK, CCTV is working – fewer crimes are being committed and the time required to bring criminals to justice is being cut to a fraction of the time it used to take. Thieves have nowhere to hide, so why deny their involvement when it's all on tape anyway?

But when does all this protection go too far? It's one thing to keep an eye on a dark, secluded parking garage late at night, but another to have an eye on the public washroom in your local shopping centre. Then there is the issue of home surveillance. People like to feel secure, and having the all-seeing eye on the front door provides this security for many people. So you can have a camera poised on your garage door, keeping watch for any intruders. Maybe you even have a camera in your office, so you can keep watch on your 'stuff' when you're off on a sick day or just popping out for lunch. What about a hidden camera in the living room for when you're having a party and there are people who may crash that you don't know? By keeping an eye on your property, are you guaranteeing the protection of your family and yourself, or are you really just developing paranoid fantasies and invading people's personal privacy?

We all do things that we wouldn't want others to see. They aren't necessarily devious things, but people do behave differently alone than in the company of others. If you sincerely mistrust the people all around you, then what quality of life is there? I think we need to seriously evaluate how we interact with people. If you fear your safety and the security of your property then get to know the people around you, there's a lot to be said for communication. Form a community watch system, where people look out for each other's property. Get to know people and get a feel for whether they can be trusted in your home. Respect other's right to privacy when alone, and not in a position to harm anyone. If you have to buy peace of mind in the form of a surveillance camera, then it isn't worth much is it?

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