Crime

You’re being watched: Security cameras popping up everywhere

A watched walk through Little Havana

A look at all the cameras -- or, at least, cameras we can see -- that have you under surveillance on a Saturday morning walk to the grocery store in Little Havana.
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A look at all the cameras -- or, at least, cameras we can see -- that have you under surveillance on a Saturday morning walk to the grocery store in Little Havana.

Take a moment and consider: When you step outside your front door each day, how often are you NOT under some form of security camera surveillance?

Now, as you realize you’re being relayed from one camera to another throughout your day, consider this: Do you feel safer?

They got nothing to lose. They just cover themselves up and do whatever. Especially the young kids. Young kids have no fear at all.

Free Pawn manager Charles Devine on security cameras as a crime deterrent

Have surveillance cameras become so common that they blend into the background? Are surveillance cameras the ounce of prevention or the pound of cure? Do they prevent crime?

“Before it did, but not anymore,” said Charles Devine, manager at Free Pawn, on Northwest 27th Avenue just north of Miami city limits. “I don’t think anybody’s afraid of anything now. They got nothing to lose. They just cover themselves up and do whatever. Especially the young kids. Young kids have no fear at all.”

Said Little Havana restaurant Selva Negra’s manager Rebecca Lara: “For criminals, I think they just don’t care. It does help with face recognition.”

Broward Sheriff’s Office detectives are asking for the public’s help in identifying an armed robber who ambushed an elderly woman in an elevator, held her at knife-point and stole her purse. Security cameras captured the crime and the robber’s fai

G6 Systems operations manager Kirk Gordon has been installing security camera systems for 20 years after getting into the business because “I have a problem with thieves. Growing up I had real issues with that and I really don’t like thieves.”

Gordon said “crimes are mainly crimes of opportunity — ‘it’s me and her and nobody around, I’m going to grab that purse’ — and he goes for it. ... It does help to reduce crime in my opinion.

“Can it be harmful? Yes. Things can be taken out of context.”

Gordon says the lack of sound can push the viewer into misperceiving, say, jocular roughhousing with actual fighting.

There’s no question security cameras long ago crossed into omnipresence if not omniscience.

A 1990 skit on sketch comedy show In Living Color spoofed America’s Funniest Home Videos with “America’s Funniest Security Camera Videos” showing a bumbling armed robber in a convenience store. People under 30 watching that today in an age of truTV’s America’s Dumbest Criminals might wonder where the funny is. As with the prescient 1976 movie Network, one generation’s satire becomes a future generation’s reality.

When burglars break into a church school and steal a safe, they can expect to be caught on camera. On April 8, elevator security camera footage from Miami Beach’s Sunset Harbour South condominium showed South Florida murder suspect Jonathan Alonso with victim Louis Piper’s pug. That helped Miami Beach police arrest Alonso later that night.

The same day, security camera footage from the Bowl Bar liquor store and club on the corner of Northwest Seventh Street and 17th Avenue showed a city of Miami dump truck slamming into the back of a taxicab, killing the passenger while starting an 11-vehicle megacrash.

Surveillance video shows City of Miami dump truck as it crashes into a taxi cab, killing the passenger.

A two-car crash that shut down part of Northwest 27th Avenue one Tuesday morning had media checking with Free Pawn to see if their cameras saw anything. They didn’t, but not for lack of volume (16 cameras) or technology (high definition).

Devine said the general manager and owners examine the security tapes daily, watching both the employees and volume of business. Gordon has noticed a change in the attitude of employees toward security cameras, once a symbol of Big Brother.

“In a lot of cases, people are putting cameras in for the safety of employees more than watching the employees,” Gordon said. “These days, you have all these crazy people. Now, it’s, ‘Oh, he’s here to do the cameras! Yay!’ I didn’t get that 10 years ago.”

One recent Friday night, the Selva Negra restaurant showed an Argentina World Cup qualifying match on one big screen TV. The other showed the feeds from several security cameras, most of the screen focused on the rear parking lot camera. Those aren’t even all the cameras the restaurant installed when rebuilding after a fire. And those cameras rolled when a burglar stole cash in April 2015.

“Now, we have a company monitoring the cameras all day,” Lara said. “I think it’s good business. I don’t think anything you can put in to benefit your restaurant is a luxury.”

Miami-Dade Public Schools concurs. The district just decided to spend $10 million on putting 7,000 more cameras into schools.

Derek Medina is accused of killing his wife and posting her body on Facebook.

Hook into enough feeds and you can watch much of our lives through the point of view director Guy Ritchie used often in 2000’s Snatch — through security cameras.

Of course, that was 2000. Analog days. Stone knives and bearskins compared to today’s clear systems.

“You get a lot of customers who just want the new stuff — ‘I want the new stuff,’” Gordon said. “Rightfully so because you watch the evening news, you see an old camera and it’s pixelated. You’re like, ‘I don’t know who that is!’ That’s what we had to work with before. Now, a store owner sees that then he sees video of this awesome picture, he’s like — gasp — ‘Why does it look like that?’ Now, he’s picking up the phone, calling his camera guy. He’s willing to spend the extra money to do the upgrades.”

Because you always want to have a clean picture in case you’re near a crash ... or somebody tries to steal your cash.

Miami Beach police say an embrace between two men led to a violent attack at a South Beach bar that was caught on surveillance video.

David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal

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