April 24, 2018

Is a Surveillance Camera the Way to Stop Theft – or Just Compound Tensions?

By LJ Staff

The installation of a surveillance camera, after apparent thefts and union conflicts, has compounded tensions at the Tompkins County Public Library, Ithaca, NY. As reported by the Star-Gazette, cash contributions to the library donation box have lagged by $1000 in the past year, and that led library director Janet Steiner to contact the Ithaca Police Department, which put "a surveillance camera – disguised as a clock radio – in the library’s main lobby." However, the police apparently didn’t warn the library security guard, who noticed the new appliance and wondered if it was a bomb. But he thought it could be a spy camera and, once removed, library staffers inspected it and found a camera.

That narrative was explained in a letter from a union leader to Steiner, and more than 35 library staffers, in a petition, have protested the installation of the camera. The incident occurred amid a backdrop of tensions between the library and the union. A police spokesman told the newspaper that the camera was an appropriate response to "specifically monitor the collection box for this criminal activity."