NEW PALTZ, N.Y. (AP) - From shop windows displaying
tie-dyed T-shirts to frizzy-haired college students
ambling down Main Street, it looks like this college
town never totally left the '60s.
But now village officials are thinking of making a
very un-Aquarian addition to downtown: four to five
Some residents say they're concerned about the
possible introduction of "Big Brother" to their quaint
downtown, which is a stone's throw from the State
University of New York at New Paltz. But local
officials hope cameras would end a spate of late night
scuffles and broken windows in this Hudson Valley
"It's like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," said Mayor
Thomas Nyquist. "It's a nice quiet sort of New
Englandish type of community during the daytime, but
from about 11 o'clock at night until 4 in the morning,
it can be a very rowdy place."
A number of village shop owners have complained
about broken windows. Tom Gogolski, owner of Manny's
Art Supplies, said he replaced five windows at $200 a
piece last year.
"I have another broken one right now," he said,
"that's not uncommon around here."
Nyquist blames "unsavory characters" from
neighboring areas drawn to New Paltz' bar scene. He
said village officials are collecting information
about a surveillance system and hope to make a
decision soon. Nyquist said they are still open to
Surveillance cameras are a prevalent, if little
noticed, part of contemporary life. It is estimated
that more than a million cameras watch over offices,
buses, train stations and shops around the nation.
Cities from Mobile, Ala., to Jersey City, N.J., employ
surveillance systems. Dave Saddler of the Security
Industry Association, a trade group, said even smaller
communities are turning to them.
Just last month, officials in State College, Pa. -
a college town like New Paltz - approved the
installation of video cameras after three downtown
riots in the last four years.
And across the Hudson River from New Paltz, city
police in Poughkeepsie have been watching downtown
streets for five years through high-perched cameras
that can rotate and zoom.
Capt. Steven Minard said the cameras serve the dual
purpose of discouraging criminal acts and providing
information to police headed to crime scenes. Police
responding to calls will even use cameras to avoid
traffic jams, he said.
"Seconds can make a large difference in many
instances," Minard said.
Camera systems can be cheaper than additional beat
cops since the video images can be viewed by a desk
officer. Nyquist said the $25,000 to $30,000 it would
take to purchase four or five cameras for New Paltz
would be cheaper than new hires.
Still, others in New Paltz see surveillance cameras
as an odd fit for town with a reputation for being
liberal and open.
"Any time you get semi-adolescent people together,
you're going to have problems," community college
student Danielle Emerson said this week as she chatted
with friends at Starbucks. "But New Paltz is a safe
town. It's a hippie town!"
Stephen Bergstein, a resident and civil rights
attorney, said while the idea appears legal, it's
still disquieting. He asks: What are they going to do
with the information?
"People, I don't think, would feel comfortable
looking up and seeing the red light of the camera
focused right on them, even if you know in your heart
you're not doing anything wrong," he said.
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Nyquist said he realizes some people would see
street cameras as an intrusion. But he said they would
likely only be turned on after 11 p.m., when they are