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Thursday, July 17, 2008

SF Crime Cameras are the Marisa Tomei of Questionable Safety Initiatives

Posted By on Thu, Jul 17, 2008 at 8:55 AM

click to enlarge marisa_thumb.jpeg

There are 68 crime cameras in San Francisco, scattered from the Mission to Coit Tower and a report from UC Berkeley's Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society released in March suggests that rather than deterring crime they encourage criminals to commit offenses a block or so away, in more private surroundings.

While the cameras may fail at their intended purpose, they have successfully exonerated two wrongfully accused people in a twelve month span, the second of which is DeAndre Barney who stood accused of armed robbery.

After a Haight street store was robbed, Barney was picked out of a photo lineup by the victim, and not only did his car seem to match the description of the getaway vehicle, it was photographed near the scene of the crime near the time it occurred. From the press release:

Deputy Public Defender Martin obtained and reviewed the community

safety camera footage. Contrary to the police affidavit, the tapes showed

that the robbers actually left the scene in their light-colored car at

14:58:13 – four minutes before the license plate photo was taken. More

importantly, the footage showed that Barney’s photographed license plate,

which formed the basis for his arrest, was on a different light-colored car

than that driven by the robbers.

This story,of course, begged for a comparison to a 1992 cinematic classic that also hinged on the correct identification of motor vehicles. From Public Defender Jeff Adachi:

"This case comes out of the storyline of the movie, "My Cousin

Vinny," where one car driven by an innocent man is mistaken for another

similar car belonging to the robber. It's a classic case of why

circumstantial evidence can't always be trusted."

While My Cousin Vinny is about a number of things- love triumphing in the face of adversity, dudes’ propensity to underestimate a ladies knowledge of technical matters, bad motels- it is mostly about how the accused got off on a pretty serious charge due to accurate photographic evidence related to cars- making this the most relevant My Cousin Vinny reference ever. -Andy Wright

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Andy Wright

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