[funsec] When surveillance cameras lie

Richard M. Smith rms at bsf-llc.com
Mon Feb 20 17:48:12 CST 2006

Surveillance cameras don't always tell the truth.  Case in point:


Pr. George's Settles Suits by 3 Detainees 
By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 9, 2004; Page B04 

Prince George's County has quietly settled lawsuits filed by three Arizona
women who were charged with murder by county police last year and jailed for
three weeks before officials determined that they were innocent.  


Police focused on the Arizona residents after the Fox TV show "America's
Most Wanted" aired a segment on the Mansfield slaying in March 2003, when it
was still unsolved. The show aired photographs from a bank security camera
showing the Sheltons and Starkey using an automated teller machine at a
SunTrust bank branch near Mansfield's home a few hours after the killing. An
acquaintance of the Sheltons called a tip line and identified them. 

Bank records showed that someone used Mansfield's debit card to withdraw
$200 from the ATM about the same time that the Sheltons and Starkey used the

But detectives did not realize that the times on the bank transaction
records and the bank's video surveillance camera were not synchronized.
Officials eventually determined that Virginia Shelton and the teenagers, who
were visiting a relative in Washington, used their debit cards minutes
before Mansfield's card was used by someone else. 

County police interrogated the Sheltons and Starkey for several hours in
Arizona before charging them. Detectives alleged in charging documents that
the three admitted using Mansfield's debit card. 

In interviews, the Sheltons and Starkey said they acknowledged to police
that they had used the ATM but insisted to detectives that they did not
steal anyone's card and knew nothing about a homicide. In June 2002,
Virginia Shelton had driven to the Washington area to help her ailing
mother, and her daughter and Starkey had come along. 

Virginia Shelton and Starkey were flown to Prince George's and spent three
weeks in the county jail. Shirley Shelton was detained for three weeks in an
Arizona juvenile detention facility. 

Charges were dropped and the three were released when a prosecutor realized
that the times on the bank records and the video camera were not

-----Original Message-----
From: funsec-bounces at linuxbox.org [mailto:funsec-bounces at linuxbox.org] On
Behalf Of Larry Seltzer
Sent: Monday, February 20, 2006 6:32 PM
To: funsec at linuxbox.org
Subject: RE: [funsec] "if you are not doing anything wrong, why should you
worry about it?"

>>"if you are not doing anything wrong, why should you worry about it?" 

I've heard some talk about putting cameras in private places, but that's a
straw man. The real question is about cameras in public places.

I've never understood what the problem was with cameras in public places,
taking pictures of public places. I don't even know why anyone would be
bothered by them. It's a bloody public place, like a street corner, nobody
has any reasonable expectation of privacy there. Nobody would object to a
policeman standing there looking at the same area covered by the camera.
What interest is threatened, what right violated? I just don't get it.

As for criminals going to where the cameras are, there are a few answers: 1)
this will just show where more cameras are needed; 2) If ordinary
non-criminals also know where the cameras are they know where they will be
relatively more safe; 3) police can concentrate more on the uncovered areas.

It's mostly about making the police more effective, but I think there's
exculpative potential too. A camera can be used to show that a person was
*not* at a particular place at a particular time. Also, given a choice
between an individual or police officer's testimony that they saw me at a
location and an actual video of what happened I'll choose the video.

Larry Seltzer
eWEEK.com Security Center Editor
Contributing Editor, PC Magazine
larryseltzer at ziffdavis.com 

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