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Is Big Brother your next door neighbor? In an effort to catch neighbors in the act of doing everything from keying their cars to dumping dog waste, homeowners are bringing out the eye in the sky; or at least the video surveillance cam purchased from a local electronics store. For allegations that used to be he said/she said, there is now bad behavior caught on tape and posted to YouTube.
Take Floridian Steve Miller, who purchased a "$400 do-it-yourself video surveillance kit," complete with a motion-activated camera. The New York Times reports that Miller decided to video tape his yard after dog waste in plastic bags magically appeared in his manicured landscaping. Thanks to his video equipment, Miller was able to record the neighbor he suspected of dumping dog feces in his yard. Miller showed the video to the community security patrol and, according to The Times, the wayward neighbor was charged with improper waste disposal, littering and leash law violations.
Miller also uploaded the video to YouTube, suitably scored with a fun soundtrack and narration.
Bad neighbor behavior is being caught on tape nationwide. A Houston man used a camera focused on his driveway to catch what he claimed was his neighbor, a former judge, scratching his car. Adam Kliebert posted the video online and with the police. Former Judge Woody Densen, writes The Times, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor criminal mischief and paid $3,000 worth of damages on Mr. Kliebert's Range Rover. The judge's lawyer says his client only plead to the charges to avoid trial and did not actually harm Kliebert's Rover.
As bad as this kind of behavior is, is it legal to film people without their knowledge? Generally, cameras trained to capture your own property or public places are within the law. However, the line is drawn at filming any place that might be considered private. "It's when you extend your senses into unexpected places, like using a telephoto to film what's going on in your neighbor's bedroom, that you could run into trouble," David Ardia, director of the Citizen Media Law Project told The Times.
Perhaps you can even get some fun out of a bad situation. The Times reports that Kenneth Gore, of Pinellas Park, Fla., trained a camera on the area surrounding his mobile home to catch the local cats despoiling his yard. The result was not only a video of the cats being caught by the motion-sensor sprinklers he installed, but film of his nosey neighbors peering in his windows. The video is scored with the theme from the old British comedy show "The Benny Hill Show" and in part, narrated by Tweety Bird. Mr. Gore no longer has issues with cats, or his neighbors.