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This is an open letter to the residents of Hollister and the city leaders on their decision to install surveillance/spy cameras, which have sound recording capabilities. The cameras, in addition to recording your every move (24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year), can capture and record your voice, conversations with other individuals and even on your cell phone.

As part of a public service assignment for my Video TV media journalism class, I invited the mayor and city council of Hollister to participate in an on-camera interview about their decision to approve a contract for well over a-quarter-of-a-million dollars to Surveillance Grid Integrated Inc., (SGI) of Morgan Hill to install surveillance/spy cameras- with sound recording capabilities.

Following the conversation, an editorial was presented in response to the interview and positions of the mayor and city council member who argued for its support.

The following is provided to inform, educate and engage the electorate on the implication of the decision and for purposes of weighing its impact on our quality of life and great potential of violating our privacy and civil liberties guarantees under the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Moreover, it is offered to consider the arguments for and against.

A C-SPAN video on Robotic Surveillance and the Law (click here to view) is provided as an example of the on-going national debate on the legal implications of the wholesale violation of privacy and civil liberties in the name of security.

Better utilization of our scarce and limited city funds that directly address and benefit our community’s needs is in order. The unjustifiable expenditure on expensive surveillance/spy cameras, with audio listening capability, which do not provide security nor guarantees safety, is a hoax and a wasteful give-away of precious resources. Therefore, the engagement of the electorate on the decision of our elected and appointed officials is required.

It is also presented in the hope that by providing this information, our elected representatives, who are sworn to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and Bill of Rights; will truly appreciate the profound implication their harmful decision will have on our individual privacy, civil liberties, and a false sense of security as a result.