“Big Brother” Has His Eye on Sikeston

“Big Brother” Has His Eye on Sikeston
By: Lauren Keith
Sikeston, MO - You may not think with all the freedoms we have in America, that it would be possible for the government to keep a close eye on you and even record you. However, it is legal, and it's happening right here in the Heartland.
Sikeston Public Safety Chief Drew Juden says the city, the school and the housing authority are all interested in ways to make Sikeston safer. So, they came together, wrote some grants and now, they have 21 high-tech undercover cameras.
These cameras are easy to miss from the street, but they can zoom in from very far away. They can rotate 360 degrees and even pick up the smallest details, like license plates and faces - both things that will help police, but does it infringe on your privacy?
"You can't see the camera's direction, so you don't know if you're being recorded or not, because the domes are tinted, " says Chief Juden.

At the Public Safety Office, these dispatchers and officers can easily swivel the joystick and see what you may be up to.

"We're not looking in houses or in neighborhoods that closely, but it's no different than walking into Wal-mart or the bank!" said Chief Juden.

He says the cameras are set up in places with a history of high crime. They also keep a close eye on busy intersections, like Main and Malone.

Cameras also sit outside several Sikeston schools. The school district and the housing authority chipped in thousands of dollars in grant money to help buy the cameras.

Five cameras now watch over the streets near the housing authority's 253 apartments. Director Bobby Henry hopes this helps cut down on crime. “Such things as someone trying to break into a unit--we can see what's going on, and if someone's trying to vandalize a vehicle. We'll see that! If it doesn't deter crime, then at least it will help us catch the person who's committing the crime," says Henry.

But not everyone who lives here likes "Big Brother" watching over them. “It makes you feel like a prisoner in your own neighborhood, so I hate the cameras, I say take 'em down," said Latavia Flye of Sikeston.

"It's on a public venue, public street,” contends Chief Juden.

In just two weeks, Chief Juden says those cameras have helped his officers gain enough evidence to make an upcoming drug arrest. He also says they can record up to a month's worth of video at a time, so the tape can really serve as a witness in several crimes.