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Surveillance & Security

This section of Surveillance and Security focuses on the balancing of public safety and constitutional freedoms in public spaces.

Arresting Dilemma: Stopping Stop and Frisk?

By: Benjamin Goldman, Matthew Gomm, and Wynton Lewis

The Bill of Rights in the 4th amendment guarantees protection against unreasonable search and seizure. However, the citizen has a reasonable expectation that the government will protect them against crime. Problems arise when these two basic expectations collide on the streets of our city. Should law enforcement have the power to interrogate and search any suspicious characters (however that may be defined), maximizing security at the expense of personal liberty? Or should the law only intervene when criminal activity is undeniable, thereby reacting to circumstances that may have been preventable. Such constitutional conflicts often find their way to the Supreme Court.

The Law – Is it Constitutional?

Terry v. Ohio (1968) solidified the legality of the former action, sometimes referred to as “stop and frisk”. Fifty-one years ago, Martin McFadden was patrolling his afternoon Cleveland beat when he observed two men acting in what he thought was a suspicious manner. The two men, John Terry and Richard Chilton, were alternating walking back and forth in front of a particular store, pausing for a few moments to look in the storefront before resuming their circuit. This apparent reconnaissance continued for several minutes with Officer McFadden observing. After they met with a third man, officer McFadden made his move, confronting the suspicious trio while identifying himself as a police officer. One mumbled reply later, McFadden grabbed Terry, placing him firmly between himself and the other two men. McFadden quickly patted him down and discovered a pistol in the man’s jacket. Read more…

Scales of Justice: Balance Security and the Public/Freedom

By: Benjamin Goldman, Matthew Gomm, and Wynton Lewis

While it may sound like a utopian ideal, when asked to imagine the perfect public space, one might imagine an area that is freely accessible to everyone, and an area which is safe. Including everyone in a public space, however, means also including the people who may have malicious intentions. Security in a given area must be properly implemented so that an area can remain public, but remain safe as well. But, one might wonder, why is security necessary in a public space?

Imagine yourself walking along in New York City at night. Many people tend to gather around areas like Times Square, for example, because it is a secure area. It is secure firstly because of the presence of security, and secondly because there is a large crowd. Since the area is perceived to be secure, people will naturally be drawn to go there and utilize the space, therefore making the place a public space. Now, imagine yourself in a darkened, smaller, empty square in New York City at night. Chances are that since there are significantly less people, and since there is likely not any kind of security stationed there, people might feel less inclined to hang around there. This social perception of an unsafe area will naturally drive people to avoid the said location, therefore making it less of a public space, because people won’t be utilizing it. Read more…