Friday, January 14, 2011

Want To Be In The Movies?

November 1967
  Smile! You could soon be a film star…. especially if you have light fingers.
  If you walk into a store nowadays and have the feeling that someone is watching, you may be right. Looking over your shoulder you may find a camera lens aiming right at you,. But you won’t be seeing your picture on TV. Supposedly that's still a few years away.
  Instead, an increasing number of stores are starting to install cameras to deter shoplifters and bad check passers. Since the cameras don’t know the difference between an honest and dishonest customer, we all get in the picture.
  IF YOU ARE CURIOUS like me, you wonder what becomes of those pictures being taken of us. Some may think there must be a man sitting in a darkened room in the basement watching a tiny closed circuit TV monitor. Maybe in the future, but not yet.
  These aren’t TV cameras. Having someone watching a monitor all day long would be far too costly for most businesses. Instead, you are being photographed by a Super 8mm movie camera. Some of these cameras focus in on one spot; others swing back and forth to capture the entire store.
  When I take movies, the entire 50 feet is consumed in less than five minutes. The snooper cameras shoot only one frame every five seconds. At this rate, one roll can last up to a week.
  What happens to the film then? According to drug store owner Dick Morley, one of the first in town to try out one of the cameras, the film is sent in for processing (he didn’t say which drug store he took it to for developing.) A viewer is provided to the store management to study each frame, one at a time. Presumably, if a camera captures a shoplifter in the act, the frame can be enlarged and turned over to police.
  Shoplifting is a very real problem, even in Rochester. There are shoplifting pros, most of whom come from out of town. And then there are the youngsters who pilfer mainly for the fun of it. During a week’s time, Rochester police have at least one and sometimes two or three shoplifters turned over to them by local merchants. Since most of them are juveniles and have no crime record, police do not turn them over to juvenile court. Instead they have the parents come to the police station and pick them up after hearing a lecture. They presume that the parents then take over— swiftly and sternly. Most offenders do not return.
  Dime stores, drug stores and supermarkets are the hardest hit. So they maintain the closest surveillance and nab most offenders. Stores having cameras do not make a secret of it. A sign is usually posted prominently warning potential shoplifters.
  I CAN SEE a greater potential here than deterring shoplifters.
  Whenever our newspaper takes pictures, especially of women, they rush to pretty themselves up. If given enough time, they will even make a special trip to the beauty salon.
It is my fond dream that there will be so many of these cameras around that those women who wear their hair up in curlers to go shopping will no longer dare to venture out for fear of being photographed in that nightmarish state.
  What a victory for technological advancement that will be!