AP NEWS

Video cameras would make trail parking safer

March 22, 2019

Beaumont police should increase their patrols around the Folsom Hike and Bike Trail parking lot to reduce the car break-ins that have plagued visitors, even though that won’t solve the problem. Patrol cars can swing by only so often, and a thief who saw them coming would not break a car window. Fortunately, there is another solution, and it shouldn’t cost that much — video-surveillance cameras.

A few well-positioned cameras — with signs warning that the area is monitored by police — would probably reduce these break-ins a lot. Criminals may be dishonest, but they are not dumb. They are much less likely to break the law if they know their crime will be recorded and they could be identified.

Video cameras are not that expensive these days. Thousands of area residents have them on their front doors and other parts of their property to discourage “porch pirates” and minor vandalism. If there are other public places in Beaumont that would benefit from this kind of video surveillance, those sites should be considered, too.

Granted, there is an Orwellian aspect to this issue that some citizens find unsettling. But in the case of the Folsom parking lot, the cameras would be installed in response to a specific problem. They wouldn’t be placed there to catch people doing anything besides violating the law, and more specifically breaking into parked cars. The same goes for other public places like city parks or the parking lots of libraries and schools. People have no legal right to privacy in these locations, and if their intent is to commit a crime, their concerns become even less valid.

This issue also recalls the recent innovation by the Groves Police Department, which installed video cameras in its parking lot so people could meet others there to pick up packages ordered online or to exchange children under custody agreements. A few cameras and warning signs made the place safe and strongly discouraged anyone with illegal intentions.

Other area cities could be doing the same. Better technology is available now to make our cities safer, but it requires new thinking to make it happen. Police chiefs, sheriffs and elected officials should be open to these changes to protect taxpayers.

No one can stop all crime, but there are some specific places where video surveillance can diminish it a lot. The Folsom Hike and Bike Trail parking lot seems like a good possibility.