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Leonard: More cameras the better in Lynn's Central Square

North Shore Item | June 10, 2005
By Sean Leonard

A decade or two ago and you may have heard a huge outcry, especially from civil libertarians, about cameras pointed at public areas, but not today.
                               Word this week that owners of new condominium buildings plan to perch a pair of security cameras on their buildings with lenses focused on Central Square, capturing what happens in the square 24/7, was welcome news to city officials, residents, as well as those who work in the square, including yours truly.
                              Going on six years working mostly nights in the newsroom on the second floor of the gargantuan Item building at 38 Exchange St., I've been exposed to all that is good, as well as all that is bad, about the happenings on the streets and sidewalks below.
                              Particularly during the summer months, after nightfall, it can be quite a circus around the square, running the gamut from kids banging on signs, to public domestic spats, to the inebriated, who can't always find their way to a toilet in time. And even in broad daylight, the bank branch in the square has been robbed several times in my time here.
                              Most of the goings-on are harmless, though, and never can I recall being witness to violent crime in the square. But with so many new sprawling loft condominium units under construction and the effort to lure young professionals to live here, cameras are absolutely essential to help rid the square of any riff'raff.
                              Lynn Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Kevin Donahue was right on target when he said this week, "We feel it will be more than a deterrent, it will really help the police solve crimes."
                              Forget any concern about Big Brother watching. Aside from this being a private effort to mount the security cameras, to anyone who would express concern about government watching them, I say get over yourself, you're life isn't that exciting for anyone to really care.
                              The sooner the cameras are up, the better.
                              I can also speak from personal experience about how security cameras can set people straight.
                              Were it not for a camera inside a CVS store about 28 years ago, I might be an editor at a paper called the
                              D-Block Bugle today instead of The Daily Item.
                              It was after a junior high school dance when a buddy and I decided to try our luck, tempting one another to lift a pack of gum or two. Into a jacket pocket I slipped a pack of Big Red, my buddy opting for some other brand.
                              One step outside the store and we were corralled by security personnel who brought us upstairs and showed us the film. And there I was, clear as day, caught Big Red-handed. (I still get queasy at the sight of Big Red gum).
                              After fingerprinting - a very effective scare tactic to a 12-year-old - we were released to parents. Fortunately for me at the time, mine weren't home when the store made the call. So after being told to have my folks contact the store before 5 p.m. or police would be notified, I made a mad dash - straight for an aunt's house - who was cool enough to cover for me and call the store, either acting as a guardian (I don't recall) or concocting some story as to why my parents could not be told. Even more fortunate for me then, they bought the story.
                              But I had learned my lesson, and my life of crime ended that day. Never again have I wanted or attempted to steal a thing from anyone (except of course for pens from just about everyone I've ever worked with, but honestly, that's an innocent and unintentional compulsion, and every now and then, I do gather and return them).                          


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