Tag Archives: pennsylvania

Schools-Social Laboratories for Human Surveillance

Kaye Beach

Oct. 10, 2012

The latest story about Texas school children being tagged and tracked with active RFID tracking devices  (the passive variety is considered “a little less Big Brotherish.”) has caused some controversy.  We are told that this is no big deal, that the RFID tracking simply allows the school to more efficiently do what it already does-take attendance and keep track of students whose safety and well-being is entrusted to the school by parents. But there is much more going on here and the issue deserves to be examined in a broader context.

Here is an excellent article by David Rosen of AlterNet that pulls together a variety of news relating to the tracking and surveillance of students.  If you are even slightly uncomfortable about the implementation of these high tech schemes being unleashed on our children, you should read every word of this article which provides some much needed context to the individual stories that trickle down to us from time to time.

These children are the leaders of tomorrow and their experiences at school help serve to fix the values that they will carry with them into adulthood and they are being immersed in an environment saturated with sensors designed to supervise, control and correct them.  (Here are some other objections to student RFID tracking)

Rosen’s article covers RFID and GPS tracking, electronic monitoring devices being used on kids to combat obesity in New York, electronic monitoring of calories consumed in school cafeterias,  networked CCTV systems that are directly  accessible to police and disturbing abuse of student privacy through CCTV cameras,  school computers that use cameras to remotely spy on students in their own homes, federal funding of school surveillance and more.

I would like to add one thing to  Rosen’s litany; biometric identification such as finger scanning to make lunch lines more efficient 

Rosen writes;

Few parents or children are fully aware of the scope of the tracking and surveillance now going on in American schools. Three simple questions need to be addressed: What is happening to all the personal data captured about the students? How long it is being retained? And are school administrators providing it to law enforcement authorities or commercial vendors?

Here is the AlterNet article.

Kids Tagged With RFID Chips? The Creepy New Technology Schools Use to Track Everything Kids Do — And the Profit Motive Behind It

“Pettigrew was pitching the deal’ says former InsureNet lobbyist

Kaye Beach

April 19, 2012

In a new article published this week by the Claremore Daily Progress, Chad ALexander, former InsureNet Lobbyist comes forward with more information about District 2 congressional candidate, Wayne Pettigrew’s activities with the infamous “spy cam” insurance verification company, Insurenet.

Pettigrew acted as a lobbyist from 2009 to the middle of the 2010 Oklahoma Legislative Session, according to Alexander.

Pettigrew somehow still maintains that he was not a lobbyist for InsureNet despite his activities which can only be described as lobbying.

It started with the Governor’s office. They were getting the green light to move forward,” Alexander said.

As the reporter explained in the  first article, Lobbyist or not? Wayne Pettigrew’s InsureNet connection under scrutiny,

According to Oklahoma laws pertaining to lobbying, one can serve as a lobbyist by representing the interests of a client before government officials or enable such work as a “lobbyist principle,” that is a person who “employs or retains another person for financial or other compensation to conduct lobbying activities on behalf of the lobbyist principle.”

Pettigrew did both and admits that he was to receive a percentage amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars, upon securing a contract with a state to use the InsureNet insurance verification system.

Incidentally, this is a system that would have had ALPR license tag scanning camera to capture every driver’s license plate along with the date, location and time when it was captured, to verify insurance status.  Pattigrew also maintains that this system in no way, would have been an invasion of privacy.

Mr. Alexander correctly sums up Pettigrew’s activities in this way;

Part of the problem with Pettigrew’s activities according to Alexander is that in Oklahoma lobbyists are not allowed to operate on a pay for play basis.

“The fact is that in Oklahoma you can not have a contingency based contract,” Alexander said, “Just because he did not get paid does not mean he was not attempting to get the system passed.”

Just because Pettigrew did not make a contract does not mean he was not breaking the rules for attempting to do so, according to Alexander.

But according to the article;

Pettigrew continues to maintain that his role was “that of a business consultant promoting a service that he believed was beneficial to the state of Oklahoma and other states and that the program provided greater privacy protections than the system in place currently.”

“This service was competitively bid by the state of Oklahoma and the company that I promoted was not chosen,” Pettigrew said.

However, the fact that InsureNet, the company that Pettigrew was “promoting” never secured a contract for it’s ‘spy cam’ based service didn’t stop him from testifying before Pennsylvania House members on March 2, 2010 that Oklahoma (and two other states) were “currently in the implementation process” (see the Pennsylvania House of Representatives transcript pg 30)

What does “currently implementing” mean to you?

I referred to Mr. Pettigrew in a recent post as being “truthy”  I think that I was being much too generous.

What do you think?


Read the entire article by Salesha Wilken,  Pettigrew disputes lobbyist claims


Wayne Pettigrew and his Big Brother Budget Fixes

Kaye Beach

August 19, 2011

The revolving door is a descriptive term for the shuffling of roles between former lawmakers to industry lobbyists (or vice versa)

One of the main reasons the public disdains the those who trip through the revolving door is obvious. It provides a vehicle for public servants to utilize their office for personal gain at the expense of the taxpayer.

The most complete example of the revolving door is when the lawmaker rotates to lobbyist and back to lawmaker again.  That seems to be the trip that Wayne Pettigrew wants the Oklahoma’s Second District voters to send him on.

However, on occasion, the revolving door can hit a politician from behind.

From The Red Dirt Report;

Pettigrew considering a run for Boren’s seat

Posted: August 19, 2011

McALESTER, Okla. — Calling this a “crisis moment” in our nation’s history, former Republican state Representative and McAlester businessman Wayne Pettigrew today announced the formation of an exploratory committee for a possible bid for Congress in Oklahoma’s Second Congressional District.

The district covers most of eastern Oklahoma and is being vacated by Representative Dan Boren.
“We must chart a new course of fiscal responsibility for our country.  From the downgrading of our debt to wasteful and excessive government spending, the signs are clear that we have no time to waste,” Pettigrew said.

Read More

Mr. Pettigrew recognizes that our nation’s economic situation is dire and says he wants to help.  I don’t doubt the former Oklahoma Representative  and lobbyist has some ideas about how to pull us out of this mess.  I do, however, doubt that Second District voters will like his ideas about how to do it very much.

Pettigrew has lobbied all across this land for a company called InsureNet.

National Leader In Use Of Highway Camera Data Employs Former Rep. Wayne Pettigrew

Wayne Pettigrew, former Oklahoma House member, is the National Marketing & Government Relations director for the nation’s leading firm in administering data on vehicle insurance data gathered using controversial highway cameras, the firm’s website discloses. Read More

Paettigrew’s plan pushed for InsureNet  to keep states in the black hinges upon revenue generation.

InsureNet uses Big Brother Spy Cams to investigate every passing motorist and then fine the devil out of them.  Pettigrew has a plan for how to get them to pay too- by holding their driver’s license over their heads until they cough up the dough.

 “He [Pettigrew] said today there are no “escapes” and the days of ignoring a citation are over. Vehicle reregistration and drivers license renewal depend on paying and clearing any fines – including those regarding insurance – from any jurisdiction.” http://wwwtmrcom.blogspot.com/2010/05/pettigrew-switzer-tinker-owens-made.html

Wayne Pettigrew has given plenty of thought to how to squeeze the working class for more money and he seems quite certain that people won’t pay those fines unless you twist their arms.

Apparently that certainty is based on experience.

Pettigrew Faces $200 Fine In Nevada

The Nevada lobbyist registration of former Rep. Wayne Pettigrew, a national officer in the firm InsureNet, has been revoked for failure to file reports on time. He owes a $200 fine, a spokeswoman tells The McCarville Report Online.

Here is how InsurNet pitches its product to cash strapped cities;

Traffic cameras could help wipe out city’s projected deficit

March 16, 2009

BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter

Chicago could rake in “at least $200 million” a year — and wipe out the entire projected deficit for 2009 — by using its vast network of redlight and surveillance cameras to hunt down uninsured motorists, aldermen were told today. (That article has been removed from the Sun Times although plenty of links to discussions about it can be found)

Another report says;

The Chicago Sun-Times quotes InsureNet president Dr. Jonathan Miller on what the city might expect to earn with the system in 2009. “Certainly, it will be well in excess of $100 million,” Dr. Miller said. “We think at least $200 million. And the upward projections are far higher.” InsureNet would charge a collection fee of “just” 30 percent in exchange for its services. Clearly, this type of system—installed at no small cost—is all about making money.

Read more

Bob Feldman (36 years with insurance enforcement in Nevada and chaired the governor’s SAGE Commission Task Force on DMV) explains the InsureNet racquet;

‘Insure Net is attempting to get this item on the agenda via the governor’s office, an attempt to use their $100 million additional revenue source as one budget savior.   . . . . IMPOSSIBLE TO COLLECT AN ADDITIONAL $100 MILLION at the current registered vehicle count. . .  Aside from privacy and other issues and a powerful lobbyist, Insure Net’s program and projections have ZERO credibility

Is this the sort of “fiscal responsibility” voters can expect out of Wayne Pettigrew as their congressman?

InsureNet has earned a reputation nationwide for making inflated claims as to the accuracy, security and profitability of their system.

You may recall the uproar back in 2010 caused by Gov. Brad Henry’s Budget Proposal for FY 2011  which proposed installing some 200 new spy cams on state highways for automated enforcement purposes.

Oklahoma To Deploy Photo Ticketing Cameras Statewide
Private company to set up network of cameras to track Oklahoma drivers and issue insurance tickets to generate $95 million a year.


Pettigrew also pitched the deal to Pennsylvania lawmakers on March 2 of 2010 telling them that Oklahoma (and two other states) were currently implementing the system.  (see the Pennsylvania House of Representatives transcript pg 30)

That statement was untrue.  -No state has contracted with InsureNet for this service described by one Nevada legislator as “wacky

As reported on June 16 of 2010 by the The McCarville Report Online;

Although InsureNet was among those companies that had submitted bids to the state, as of mid June ” a contract has not yet been awarded.”

From NewsOK Aug 2, 2010

[Jonathon]Miller said he is “mystified” by delays in awarding the contract and hasn’t heard anything from Oklahoma officials in a long time.

Read more: http://newsok.com/delay-in-contract-award-may-harm-oklahoma-revenues/article/3481349#ixzz1WwRlAof9

Feb. 24 2010, Nevada nixed InsureNet.

Senate Majority Leader Stephen Horsford said;

“The two problems with InsureNet are having cameras all over the state, so, a “Big Brother” type thing, that Nevadans will not like…and the fact that this company has no agreement with any other state.  Why should Nevada be a guinea pig on a risky scheme?”

Scarcely a week before the Pennsylvania committee meeting, in Nevada it was reported that InsureNet had no states implementing its system. The same article noted that InsureNet did verify medical insurance.

Big Brother gets Bipartisan Opposition

Pennsylvania Rep. Rick Geist, a Republican,  said that any such device should only be used  for safety, not financial reasons.

“The first thing you want to do is to protect people’s individual rights. The second order is safety,”

The chairman of the Pennsylvania state House Transportation Committee. Rep. Joseph Markosek, a Democrat,  expressed doubts.

“. . . the idea of using some of this technology strikes some trepidation in the public.  and asked “. . . how much Big Brother do we need in our society?”

Will Oklahoma’s Second District warm to the idea of Wayne Pettigrew and  his Big Brother budget fixes filling Dan Boren’s seat?

I gave my magic 8 ball a shake and here is what it said;

More about the Oklahoma “Spy Cam” deal

Oklahoma: House passes bill to prevent political violence

Kaye Beach

April 28, 2011

Senate Bill 287  passed the House Tuesday 69 to 23.

See House  votes

The Broken Arrow Ledger reports:

OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation that would make it a felony to willfully and knowingly enter a restricted area where state officials are being provided protection by the Department of Public Safety has passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Senate Bill 285, by state Sen. Kim David and state Rep. Mike Ritze, would also make it a felony to enter a restricted area to engage in violence or disorderly conduct and specifically mentions the Governor’s Mansion.

Read More

The bill says it ” shall be unlawful” to

1.  Willfully and knowingly enter or remain in any posted, cordoned off, or otherwise restricted area of a building or grounds where the Governor, any member of the immediate family of the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, or other state official being provided protection by the Department of Public Safety is or will be temporarily visiting;

2.  Willfully and knowingly enter or remain in any posted, cordoned off, or otherwise restricted area of a building or grounds the use of which is restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national or state significance

Also unlawful would be to  “Willfully and knowingly, enter with the intent to impede or to disrupt the orderly conduct of government business or official functions in or within close proximity to any building or grounds” or to “or to engage in disorderly or disruptive conduct in or within close proximity to any building or grounds”

SB285 version, votes, amendment etc.

Reading this bill, I would be afraid to get any where near the Governor! And this is likely, exactly the point. If  you want to make sure you don’t get into  trouble, stay the heck away from the Governor!  Nice. .

So much for access, but hey!  there’s always e-Government.  It is safe sanitary and makes those annoying citizens ever so easy to ignore.  Just hit “delete” and Buh Bye.. 

“I think it is important in light of the Arizona shooting of a U.S. Congresswoman to ensure the safety of public officials,” Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, said

The Arizona shooting  prompted a variety of  legislative proposals for the purpose of better  safeguarding officials.

Less than 24 hours after the Arizona shooting that killed 6 and critically injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords  Rep Robert Brady from Pennsylvania was promising to introduce legislation “making it a federal crime for a person to use language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a Member of Congress or federal official.” according to CNN

Read More

Video interview with Rep. Brady here.

Some legislators like Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine, reacted by  focusing on language that they perceived as threatening;

A good place to start a more civil dialog would be for my Republican colleagues in the House to change the name of the bill they have introduced to repeal health care reform. The bill, titled the “Repeal the Job Killing Health Care Law Act,” was set to come up for a vote this week, but in the wake of Gabby’s shooting, it has been postponed at least until next week.

Read More

One South Carolina legislator wanted to require Universities to turn over the records of “disruptive” or “threatening” students that drop out of school.  The article doesn’t say who the records would be turned over to but presumably it would be the police.

Read More

Reinstate the Fairness Doctrine

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, the third-ranking Democrat in Congress, said Sunday the deadly shooting in Arizona should get the country thinking about what’s acceptable to say publicly and when people should keep their mouths shut.

The shooting is cause for the country to rethink parameters on free speech, Clyburn said from his office, just blocks from the South Carolina Statehouse. He wants standards put in place to guarantee balanced media coverage with a reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine, in addition to calling on elected officials and media pundits to use ‘better judgment.’

Read More

Other reactions were more predictable:

Carolyn McCarthy readies gun control bill

Arizona Shooting Prompts Bloomberg to Renew Battle Against Illegal Guns

Republicans too

Peter King, a GOP Congressman from New York, announced new anti-gun legislation in the wake of the Arizona shooting:

“Congressman Peter King today also announced that he will introduce legislation that will make it illegal to knowingly carry a gun within 1,000 feet of the President, Vice President, Members of Congress or judges of the Federal Judiciary. In the United States, it is illegal to bring a gun within 1,000 feet of a school. Passing a similar law for government officials would give federal, state, and local law enforcement a better chance to intercept would-be shooters before they pull the trigger.”

Read more

AxXiom for Liberty Tonight 6-8pm CST Biometrics-“Your Body Is Your ID”

Listen LIVE Online! www.RuleofLawRadio.com Fridays 6-8pm CST

August 27, 2010


Kevin Kelly, a young Liberty activist from PA.


Mark Lerner of the Stop Real ID Coalition telling about his newly released book “Your Body Is Your ID”

Mark is a nationally recognized expert on the topic of biometrics and national/international ID and the book, of course, addresses those topics and their impact on our freedom but it also draws upon Mark’s experience as he has traveled around the country educating and empowering legislators and citizens alike about the threat posed to our essential freedoms by the combination of post 9 11 “security” policies and new technologies like biometric identification.  In addition the book addresses some incredibly important points about the changes in our society that are of great concern all Americans.  Including;

  • Are we living in a Surveillance Society? And is it possible to reconcile the level of surveillance we are experiencing with a free and open society?
  • The difference between lifestyle with freedom and the danger of confusing the two.
  • Is our government’s strategy on immigration and terrorism, especially regarding identification policy, flawed?  Is there a better alternative?
  • Mark Lerner’s book explains how we are all being enrolled into a single global biometric ID system, why this is such a threat and what to do about it.

Your Body Is Your ID

Enrolling the world into a single global biometric system-Fact Sheet

Call in 512 646-1984

More info

Insurenet and Pettigrew use Oklahoma to Peddle their Scameras in PA

AxXiom for Liberty, The Oklahoma Watchdog, Mike McCarville and Lee Matthews of KTOK 1000 have been following and reporting on Insurenet and its (s)camera plan for months.  Looks as though they may have scored a win in Pennsylvania.

This woolly booger came onto my radar back in Feb of 2009 with a hotly debated bill sponsored by Rep. Ken Miller, now running for State Treasurer who admitted he had conferred with Insurenet about the legislation.

Wayne Pettigrew, (who doesn’t pay his own fines)former Oklahoma state legislator turned Insurenet lobbyist, has nabbed another state with the lure of easy money and he used our state to do it!

On pg 30 Mr Pettigrew tells the Pennsylvania House of Representatives that Oklahoma is currently implementing Insurenet’s system.  This has been flatly denied by Oklahoma officials although Insurenet has used Pettigrew and Barry Switzer to push their system in Oklahoma and Oklahoma is getting a tag scanning/ticketing system that by its description sounds like Insurenet.

As I have said, there is more to all of this than meets the eye.

Find out more about Automatic License Plate Recognition

Sorry Pennsylvania!

Join “Ban the Scameras in Oklahoma” on Facebook

Pennsylvania Governor Proposes Tolling, Taxing and Ticketing to Balance Budget

From The Newspaper

Pennsylvania governor sees new taxes, tolls, fees and cameras as the key to shoring up the state budget.

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell is struggling in his latest budget with the desire to spend more money while lacking tax revenue due to the economic recession. Nonetheless, the $28 billion budget for 2011 expends $200 million more than the previous year. Rendell yesterday testified before the state Senate Transportation Committee about how he intended to hit up motorists to make up much of that amount.

“If you did the increase in fees for inflation and the four cents at the pump — again, I think my idea is the best idea — but if you did that, you’ve got almost $100 million more,” Rendell testified. “If you did the InsureNet — that’s the plan with the cameras — the state would generate $75 million more.”

Rendell specifically asked committee members to index various registration and driving fees to inflation so that they would automatically increase every year without a vote. He also suggested the gas tax should rise by at least four cents, although he preferred to index the gas tax to inflation as well.

Lobbyist Wayne Pettigrew had testified on March 2 before the state House Transportation Committee about the InsureNet made system which would generate automated citations for motorists who may have missed an auto insurance premium by as little as a few hours.


Pay Up Citizen-We Know Who You Are

Pennsylvanians are getting spooked by scary TV ads being run by their state’s revenue department. The state is trying to persuade tax dodgers to pay up by airing creepy, Orwellian TV ads to promote a tax amnesty program. One of the ads opens by showing a view of the Earth from space. A satellite camera then zooms in through the clouds and focuses a house in a Pennsylvania neighborhood. A blinking target appears over the house and the words “subject located” appear as a voice intones, “Your name is Tom. You live just off of 5th Street. Nice car, Tom, nice house. What’s not so nice is you owe Pennsylvania $4,212 in back taxes. Listen Tom, we can make this easy. Pay online by June 18th and we’ll skip your penalty and take half off your interest because, Tom, we do know who you are.” Critics say the ads intimidate and threaten all Pennsylvania citizens — even those who have paid their taxes. Read the rest of this item here.

PA Pushing Penalties for Not Reporting Lost/Stolen Guns

From Above Average Jane who sat in on this conference call;

Lost or Stolen Handgun Reporting: At a Glance

Cities across Pennsylvania are considering and passing local “Lost and Stolen” handgun reporting ordinances. So far fourteen cities have made the rule law: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Pottsville, Reading, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Wilkinsburg, Erie, Homestead, West Homestead, Clairton, and Oxford, and Munhall. Three have passed resolutions requesting action from the State Legislature: Easton, York, and Oxford. Illegal gun violence is not just a “big city” issue. Every community is at risk. Any action that can be taken to stem accessibility to illegal guns, without infringing upon rights of legal ownership is a step in the right direction.


Mark Whitman, City of York Commissioner says that not only are PA Chiefs of Police in support of this type of measure but also the International Association of Chiefs of Police.


Read Jane’s Above Average notes from the call

The Firearms Freedom Act

The Firearms Freedom Act (FFA) is sweeping the Nation.

August 5th, 2009

Originally introduced and passed in Montana, the FFA declares that any firearms made and retained in-state are beyond the authority of Congress under its constitutional power to regulate commerce among the states.

Since its passage in Montana, a clone of the Firearms Freedom Act has been enacted in Tennessee, and has been introduced in the legislatures of Alaska, Texas, South Carolina, Minnesota and Florida. Legislators in many other states have announced that they will introduce FFA clones when their legislatures next convene.

The FFA is primarily a Tenth Amendment challenge to the powers of Congress under the “commerce clause,” with firearms as the object – it is a state’s rights exercise

Pennsylvania –(AmmoLand.com)– State Representative Sam Rohrer has introduced the “Firearms Freedom Act” (HB1988) for consideration in the state legislature. The bill is “An Act prohibiting certain firearms, firearm accessories or ammunition from being subject to Federal law or Federal regulation.”:

“create the Pennsylvania firearms freedom act; to make certain findings regarding intrastate commerce; to prohibit federal regulation of firearms, firearms accessories, and ammunition involved purely in intrastate commerce in this state; to provide for certain exceptions to federal regulation; and to establish certain manufacturing requirements.”

HB1988 currently has 48 additional co-sponsors, and according to FirearmsFreedomAct.com, is similar to bills recently enacted into law in both Montana and Tennessee.

While the bill seems to focus solely on federal gun regulations, it has far more to do with the 10th Amendment’s limit on the power of the federal government.  It specifically states:

The regulation of intrastate commerce is vested in the states under the 9th and 10th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, particularly if not expressly preempted by federal law. Congress has not expressly preempted state regulation of intrastate commerce pertaining to the manufacture on an intrastate basis of firearms, firearms accessories, and ammunition.

Rohrer, in a recent letter to Pennsylvania House Members, addressed the issue of the commerce clause...read more here.

As reported earlier Michigan in now following in the steps of Montana’s Firearms Freedom Act and Tennessee’s Firearms Freedom Act. And recently – AmmoLand.com

Model Version FFA;


Gun Groups File Lawsuit to Validate
Montana Firearms Freedom Act

Oct 1, 2009


Lancaster Pennsylvania’s “Private” Eyes

This historic town, where America’s founding fathers plotted during the Revolution and Milton Hershey later crafted his first chocolates, now boasts another distinction. It may become the nation’s most closely watched small city.

Some 165 closed-circuit TV cameras soon will provide live, round-the-clock scrutiny of nearly every street, park and other public space used by the 55,000 residents and the town’s many tourists. That’s more outdoor cameras than are used by many major cities, including San Francisco and Boston.

Unlike anywhere else, cash-strapped Lancaster outsourced its surveillance to a private nonprofit group that hires civilians to tilt, pan and zoom the cameras — and to call police if they spot suspicious activity. No government agency is directly involved.

Perhaps most surprising, the near-saturation surveillance of a community that saw four murders last year has sparked little public debate about whether the benefits for law enforcement outweigh the loss of privacy.

“Years ago, there’s no way we could do this,” said Keith Sadler, Lancaster’s police chief. “It brings to mind Big Brother, George Orwell and ‘1984.’ It’s just funny how Americans have softened on these issues.”

“No one talks about it,” agreed Scott Martin, a Lancaster County commissioner who wants to expand the program. “Because people feel safer. Those who are law-abiding citizens, they don’t have anything to worry about.”

A few dozen people attended four community meetings held last spring to discuss what sponsors called “this exciting public safety initiative.” But opposition has grown since big red bulbs, which shield the video cameras, began appearing on corner after corner.

Mary Pat Donnellon, head of Mission Research, a local software company, vowed to move if she finds one on her block. “I don’t want to live like that,” she said. “I’m not afraid. And I don’t need to be under surveillance.”

“No one has the right to know who goes in and out my front door,” agreed David Mowrer, a laborer for a company that supplies quarry pits. “That’s my business. That’s not what America is about.”

Hundreds of municipalities — including Los Angeles and at least 36 other California cities — have built or expanded camera networks since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In most cases, Department of Homeland Security grants helped cover the cost.

In the most ambitious project, New York City police announced plans several years ago to link 3,000 public and private security cameras across Lower Manhattan designed to help deter, track and detect terrorists. The network is not yet complete.

How they affect crime is open to debate. In the largest U.S. study, researchers at UC Berkeley evaluated 71 cameras that San Francisco put in high-crime areas starting in 2005. Their final report, released in December, found “no evidence” of a drop in violent crime but “substantial declines” in property crime near the cameras.

Only a few communities have said no. In February, the city council in Cambridge, Mass., voted not to use eight cameras already purchased with federal funds for fear police would improperly spy on residents. Officials in nearby Brookline are considering switching off a dozen cameras for the same reason.

Lancaster is different, and not just because it sits amid the rolling hills and rich farms of Pennsylvania Dutch country.

Laid out in 1730, the whole town is 4 square miles around a central square. Amish families still sell quilts in the nation’s oldest public market, and the Wal-Mart provides a hitching post to park a horse and buggy. Tourists flock to art galleries and Colonial-era churches near a glitzy new convention center.

But poverty is double the state’s average, and public school records list more than 900 children as homeless. Police blame most of last year’s 3,638 felony crimes, chiefly thefts, on gangs that use Lancaster as a way station to move cocaine, heroin and other illegal drugs along the Eastern Seaboard.

“It’s not like we’re making headlines as the worst crime-ridden city in the country,” said Craig Stedman, the county’s district attorney. “We have an average amount of crime for our size.”

In 2001, a local crime commission concluded that cameras might make the city safer. Business owners, civic boosters and city officials formed the Lancaster Community Safety Coalition, and the nonprofit organization installed its first camera downtown in 2004.

Raising money from private donors and foundations, the coalition had set up 70 cameras by last year. And the crime rate rose.

Officials explained the increase by saying cameras caught lesser offenses, such as prostitution and drunkenness, that otherwise often escape prosecution. The cameras also helped police capture and convict a murderer, and solve several other violent crimes.

Another local crime meeting last year urged an expansion of the video network, and the city and county governments agreed to share the $3-million cost with the coalition. Work crews are trying to connect 95 additional high-resolution cameras by mid-July.

“Per capita, we’re the most watched city in the state, if not the entire United States,” said Joseph Morales, a city councilman who is executive director of the coalition. “There are very few public streets that are not visible to our cameras.”

The digital video is transmitted to a bank of flat-screen TVs at coalition headquarters, several dingy offices beside a gas company depot. A small sign hangs outside.

On a recent afternoon, camera operator Doug Winglewich sat at a console and watched several dozen incoming video feeds plus a computer linked to the county 911 dispatcher. The cameras have no audio, so he works in silence.

Each time police logged a new 911 call, he punched up the camera closest to the address, and pushed a joystick to maneuver in for a closer look.

A license plate could be read a block away, and a face even farther could be identified. After four years in the job, Winglewich said, he “can pretty much tell right away if someone’s up to no good.”

He called up another feed and focused on a woman sitting on the curb. “You get to know people’s faces,” he said. “She’s been arrested for prostitution.”

Moments later, he called police when he spotted a man drinking beer in trouble-prone Farnum Park. Two police officers soon appeared on the screen, and as the camera watched, issued the man a ticket for violating a local ordinance.

“Lots of times, the police find outstanding warrants and the guy winds up in jail,” said Winglewich, 49, who works from a wheelchair on account of a spinal injury.

If a camera records a crime in progress, the video is given to police and prosecutors, and may be subpoenaed by defense lawyers in a criminal case. More than 300 tapes were handed over last year, records show.

Morales says he refuses all other requests. “The divorce lawyer who wants video of a husband coming out of a bar with his mistress, we won’t do it,” he said.

No state or federal law governs use of public cameras, so Morales is drafting ethical guidelines for the coalition’s 10 staffers and dozen volunteers. Training has been “informal” until now, he said, but will be stiffened.

read more;