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Under Surveillance: The New Normal?


SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, much has been said about the role “surveillance” played in capturing those responsible for the horrific act.

A recent New York Times/CBS News poll found that 78 percent of respondents thought surveillance cameras were a good idea.

While some say our personal liberties are at risk, many more point to the eyes in the skies as the key to keeping the public safe.

The capture of the Boston Marathon bombings suspect was set into motion by video and pictures.

When the FBI released detailed surveillance photos of Tamerlan and Dzokhar Tsarnaev taken on that tragic Patriots Day, it was only a matter of time before they were cornered.

Westfield Police Captain Michael McCabe was one of the marathon runners.

“I was at the marathon. I was on Boylston when the bombs went off. You knew from that point that every camera in the place available, every phone, every tablet, every recording device that has real time recording…every one of those would be available to law enforcement because this was a terrorist bombing,” says McCabe.

The images of the Tsarnaev brothers were caught on cell phones, street cams, and surveillance systems in private business.

The pictures taken from a Lord and Taylor department store were crucial, but McCabe says gaining access to private surveillance isn’t always easy.

“Large corporate banks sometimes give you a hard time in releasing those surveillance tapes because it’s a process. If every teller wanted a surveillance tape, it would cost them money. It would cost them time,” McCabe adds.

But if in an incident happened in downtown Springfield, one landmark says they wouldn’t hesitate at all to turn over their tapes to authorities.

The MassMutual Center has eyes everywhere.

“We have a fantastic day-to-day working relationship with all law enforcement. We do have resources here at the building where we do surveillance and monitoring and we do work in partnership with the police, so if they are doing an active investigation and believe that we may have information on our systems that might be of value to them, we certainly will cooperate with them in sharing that information,” adds Matt Hollander, General Manager of the MassMutual Center.

In the intitial frenzy of the Boston bombings, there were instances of people in the crowd being misidentified as possibly being connected to the crimes and their faces circulated through traditional and social media.

Something some civil libertarians have taken issue with.

The ACLU released a statement saying: “We are closely watching all the civil liberties issues raised by the attack and subsequent developments, not only on the rule of law, but also the limits of surveillance technologies and the possibility of racial and religious profiling.”

Back in Westfield, police don’t always need to rely on private surveillance. They have a state-of-the-art system that casts a wide visual net over the city.

We walked down near the fountains as police cameras were able to zoom in on something a small as a logo on our cap.

“They say that somewhere along the lines, you are photographed 34 times a day. [That’s a lot.] Sure, it’s a lot!”

But as in the case of the Boston bombings, being caught on tape can simply lead to being caught, and for law enforcement and businesses, the eyes in the skies are life savers.

Hollander notes, “As a manager of a public venue, we think about that all the time. We want people to have a great time when they come into the building but first and foremost, we them to feel and be safe so obviously public safety is a major concern for all of us.”

And public safety is one reason that we are all being watched.

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