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Are the Cameras Looking Up in Downtown?

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Yesterday, we mentioned that downtown Dallas is now under the watchful eye of 40 Sony security video cameras, 35 wireless radio transmitters and seven electronic storage devices that have been mounted on streetlight poles and building rooftops. The point, of course, is to deter crime or capture incidents if and when they do occur. But a few downtown-living Friends of Unfair Park have questions and concerns about cameras -- chiefly, exactly what else can they see in downtown Dallas?

The major concern is that the cameras, which are monitored by Dallas police officers, can be aimed in the windows of folks who live and work downtown. In fact, after the jump, one Friend of Unfair Park recounts a story in which she's absolutely positive a camera was peeping in on her hubbie. This Friend, in a later missive, explained that the camera is perched "50 feet from our window," or less. And, she writes, it's "at the same level as our window." Which makes our Friend "skeeved -- seriously."

Also after the jump, DowntownDallas' newly installed president and chief executive officer explains exactly how much the cameras can see. And how much they can't. My advice: If you live downtown, keep your windows shut and your panties on. Which is solid advice wherever you live. --Robert Wilonsky

First, here's the missive from that troubled Friend of Unfair Park:

My husband and I live in the the Post Wilson Building. Our loft clearly faces Elm and Ervay, and we are close enough to the cameras that we can see them moving and following the activity on the ground below.

So here's my question: How high up can these things shoot? If I decide to make a streaking dash from the bathroom to the bedroom, I know I am too high up for the street to see me, but can these cameras get a show? Also, if I'm lounging during the evening in nothing but an a-shirt and skivvies, again, I know I'm not visible to the street below, but are these cameras able to peep into our loft?

We are getting progressively more paranoid the more we see the cameras move. Once, my husband swore that it tilted up as he sat on his computer monitor and was watching him for a period before tilting back down to follow street activity.

Think about it - would YOU want City Hall to have the ability to see you lounging around your house in your weekend worst, sans bra or shirt, as you were doing daily relaxing activities around your home?

Well, the answer to that last question is: Absolutely, especially if Angela Hunt's taking a good, long look. (Well, that's what Schutze says, anyway.) But last night, Unfair Park did talk to John Crawford to ask him precisely how much these electronic Peeping Toms can peep. First off, Crawford said that several downtown law firms also helped pay for the camera, committing some $15,000 to them over a two-year period -- which is in addition to the almost $900,000 the Meadows Foundation used to pay for the cameras in the first place. As to the larger issue, this is what he had to say, after several minutes during which he tried to find someone from the Dallas Police Department to answer the question:

"Well, I just talked to one of our contacts at the police department, and according to her, the cameras rotate 360 degrees, but they don't go any higher than where they are because there's a plate on top of them that doesn't allow them to tilt up. The main purpose is to see what's going on at ground level, but they do not go up. I don't know what purpose that would serve as a practical matter. After all, the point is for them to deter people from doing crazy things in the streets, in layman's terms."

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