Peeping Bob

Soulard residents worry Big Brother will come knocking with Kraiberg's camera plan

Shelton wonders who's to stop an unscrupulous neighbor from zooming the camera in and finding someone engaged in an extramarital affair or gay sex -- a perfect recipe for blackmail.

But the surveillance architects insist that anyone who manipulates the online cameras will be logged in. That way, if anyone abuses the technology, there will be a record of it.

"The horse is out of the barn at that point," Shelton says. "This is the first brick. All of a sudden we will become a surveillance society. That's an individual freedom I'm not willing to give up."

Shelton told the SRG he had contacted the American Civil Liberties Union and vowed to file a lawsuit if the group pressed ahead with the plan.

"That rang a bell," says John Durnell, past president of the SRG. "We couldn't fight the ACLU. I didn't want to be the first neighborhood association to be a test case for this."

The SRG voted in November to break ties with Kraiberg and agreed to transfer about $30,000 of the $35,000 that was in the SRG's safety committee account to Kraiberg's Soulard Security Association, Inc.

"I raised all that money," Kraiberg says. "We had an agreement with the past board that the safety committee could spend the money any way we saw fit. When I did something they were surprised by, they divested themselves and transferred the money to the Soulard Security Association."

Neither Kraiberg nor his helpers plan to draw a salary from the nonprofit corporation or use the funds for anything other than the purchase and upkeep of equipment. "Being a city official, I have more constraints on me than a normal citizen," Kraiberg says of his involvement with the organization.

Kraiberg envisions similar systems being used in neighborhoods throughout the city and in other urban locales. Once all the kinks are worked out, he hopes to write a manual that would be free to neighborhood associations.

"I am disappointed that the [Soulard] neighborhood association would bow to the threat of a lawsuit," he says. "They should take a leadership role, and instead they've given up their oversight and control."

He adds: "This isn't Big Brother; this isn't the government. This is neighbors watching out for each other."

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