Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Security of Cameras

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published Feb. 10, 2016] ©2016 

Bank Robber, State Mutual Savings, April, 1978
(souvenir photo from the FBI)

The downside of living in the same house for 43 years is that you don’t always get around to cleaning out the filing cabinets in a timely manner. And that’s how I recently, in a fit of organizational zeal, came across this souvenir photo given to me by the FBI from State Mutual Saving’s security cameras.  It shows the miscreant who pointed a 45-calibre blue steel automatic at me and the teller from a distance of two feet in the course of robbing the bank during the first week of April in 1978.  (Please note IBM Selectric in background for teller to type in entries to your savings passbook.)
Thirty-eight years have passed, and no, NRA, you aren’t getting any donations from me. I never want to be that close to the business end of a gun again.

Actually, the FBI agent gave me the photo so that I could call them in case I ever saw the man again; he was thought to live in the area.  I sincerely doubted the robber wore this disguise around on a routine basis. Still, it would have been dismaying to find myself browsing best sellers at Warwick’s, suddenly recognize the floppy hat and fake sideburns, and realize “Oh s—t! That’s him!”  But I’d been the only customer in the bank at the time and none of the employees lived in La Jolla so I was their best candidate.

This security camera photo is actually an (excessively long) lead-in to the security cameras that my husband Olof and I just had installed. There’s just a few too many car thefts and car vandalisms in our neighborhood these days. The folks across the street had their car rolled out of the driveway in the middle of the night. But now, we’d be able to watch them do it on video!
Plenty of people have told us that security cameras rarely result in anyone being arrested or convicted of a crime. But as I’ve written about before, we’ve had our front fence taken out three times, the second and third times by hit-and-run drivers.  (The 86-year-old lady in the ‘49 Dodge who did the first one may have tried to make a break for it but I was faster.) On another occasion, some reprobates seriously vandalized 50 cars on our street, including ours. So even if the police weren’t interested in making them accountable, I could see myself getting in touch with my inner vigilante and sending my cousin Guido over to chat with them about it.

The folks who installed our video cameras told us that pretty much everyone who installs them has at least two motives. One is, of course, security.  The other, the installer said, is not infrequently related to dog poop. Seriously. People want to know once and for all whose dog is inflicting feculent ordure on their lawn. Dare to deny it now, scumbag neighbor!
Other clients, particularly those who work away from home, apparently want to know how long the gardener was really there and more to the point, was he actually gardening or talking on his cell phone?  Did the pool guy just throw some chemicals in and leave?  What time did the cleaning lady actually get there? 

For us, I have to confess that our alternate motive was the postman. We always end up on a postal route that none of the regular carriers ever bid for and hence have had a long series of frequently-well-meaning but generally inept subs who manage not to deliver mail for days at a time. Technically, we’re a “managed service point” such that carriers are required to come up to our house every day and scan a bar code proving they were there. Not that we have any way of finding out if they actually did. But now we know for sure.
A friend who has outdoor security cameras warned me that they are so much fun, I might end up cancelling cable. And I confess she’s right. When I’m sitting at Rubio’s waiting for my daily fish taco fix, I pull out my phone (on which I can see my cameras) to see what’s happening at home. Frankly, usually not much. Sometimes somebody is putting a bag of dog poop in our trash.  (Used to annoy me but I’m over it.) I watch the neighbors unloading their groceries, and people blasting through the stop sign in front of our house without even slowing down.  (SDPD: we could work a deal here.)  Now that we’re official crazy paranoid spy people with security cameras, I cruise through the replay of the night before to see if there was any action, almost perversely wanting some. Meanwhile, who knows if the creepy bank robber guy still lives here? Cold case aficionados: this is your chance.

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