William Van Alstyne, a professor of constitutional law at Duke University, said surveillance is an issue only when it is used in places people consider to be private, such as restrooms. Many consumers already accept that they are being watched in public places such as convenience stores, he added.
But John Crew, a lawyer for the Northern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said he is concerned that the public looks at privacy rights too simplistically. Are cameras really necessary in parks such as the one in Denver, he asks, if only 1% of the population is not law abiding?
James Joy, executive director for the ACLU in Colorado, said he personally did not like the idea of putting surveillance cameras in a public park, but added, "We don't have any immediate objection to it. I don't see it as any different from a patrol car passing by."
But Crew said there are other legal issues that should be examined, depending on where the cameras are being used.
"One of the real problems with all technological advancements is they get in place before legislation can catch up with [the market]," he said. "Oftentimes, these Big Brother technologies are much less effective, expensive and intrusive than people are led to believe. The [privacy issue] will be different depending on different locations . . . what you can and can't do in an airport is different from what you can and can't do in a housing project corridor or in a convenience store."
The Sitelink system is always accompanied by warning signs.
The cameras "are not covert," Wayne said. On the Las Vegas property, for example, signs warn outsiders that they are being watched by video cameras.
"You know when you enter the property that video monitoring is taking place. And from the other point of view, you know you're never alone out there. The residents have a sense of comfort," he said.
Property manager Jaime Legaspi has installed Sitelink at two housing developments in South-Central Los Angeles--Hyde Park Apartments and Watson Terrace. Like the housing development in Las Vegas, Legaspi paid for the system with funds that would have been used for security guards--$320 a month at each development.
He installed cameras facing the streets, around the apartments, and inside the courtyards and watches the properties from a PC terminal. He said the system has helped eliminate vandalism, car theft and robberies.
"My headaches have gone away," said Legaspi. "I'm not being called 24 hours a day by my tenants."