Tag Archives: thieves

Big Brother Watches You Sweat

Creative Commons by Unfocussed Mike

Last year, the local community gym, Britannia Centre in Vancouver, decided to go big brother on our sweaty asses. Suddenly, there were cameras cameras everywhere with these cute little signs saying something similar to “This area is monitored for your safety.” Maybe it was part of the whole Olympic movement, a way for Big Brother to surreptitiously move in and monitor everything and never leave, or maybe the gym was experiencing some great surge of violence or thievery.

However, as happens when one works out sometimes body parts need adjusting. Guys need to shift genitalia, women need to shift breasts in bras. One can turn away or go into the cooldown room and quickly make an adjustment without anyone seeing. Not so now. It’s recorded on cameras. But perhaps I was just being paranoid as I sweated away, so I wrote the name located on those cute little signs.

Dear ,

I have several questions about the spyeye cameras at the Britannia gym.

  • Was there an incident or incidents that caused the need for cameras? If so, what was it? Should I be on the lookout for suspicious and dangerous characters?
  • If someone were to attack me in the mat room, or elsewhere, would these cameras save me, as in, is someone actively watching them and will run to my aid, or will they just have evidence when they pick up my pieces?
  • Who is authorized to watch these videos from the camera?
  • Are they watched as they run or reviewed at a later time?
  • How often are they reviewed?
  • Where are they stored and how?
  • How long are the videos kept?
  • Are they a deterrent for public mischief or for personal harm?

I have never had or seen any altercations in the gym in all my years there. How should I feel more protected now?

Thank you,

Colleen Anderson

Having once worked for a hi-tech company I knew what some of the answers should be so I was curious to see if this person was a buffer to what was already set in stone or if they were willing to hear other sides. Here is the first response (I’ve only corrected the typos):

Hi Colleen,

Thanks for taking the time to communicate with me regarding your perspective on video cameras.  We have had cameras in the fitness centre since the late 1990’s.  Recently we upgraded the system.  The research is inconclusive as to the efficacy of cameras as a deterrent, that said we do need balance the needs of our community.

Staff requested the video cameras because of a number of instances where they felt unsafe with patrons who were aggressive and potentially dangerous, they were also dealing with increased number of complaints of theft inside and outside the fitness centre – bikes.  We have excellent staff who work hard to de-escalate conflict situations, this is just one tool that works alongside other strategies to assist in their work to create a comfortable space for all.  We have an obligation to support staff to the best of our abilities, this includes training, adequate staffing levels and communication tools.

They are just cameras and will not ‘save’ you.  The deterrent is in the collection of evidence for prosecution in the event of a crime – property or personal.  They are not used for surveillance, no one monitors or reviews recordings, images are relayed in real time to a monitor at the pool counter, but their role is not to monitor.

Footage is recorded and kept for 30 days unless there is a Britannia incident report or a police criminal report, in that case the Executive Director, who is the only person authorized to access the recordings, may request that recordings over a particular period be saved.  These recordings must be appropriate labeled, viewing logs set up and they may be saved for up to one year.  Only the Executive Director has the authority to release or view the recordings under specific conditions such as a written request from authorized law enforcement.  The recordings are labeled and stored in an area that is secured.

We follow the guidelines provided by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of BC.

It is great to know that you have never experienced any altercations in the gym, we most certainly hope to keep it that way.  If you have any other question please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

I should point out that the gym has a large space with all the weights and other machines. Off of that is a small room with windows overlooking the stairs up to the gym, that has mats and is for stretching/cool down. There is no way to exit that room without going through the gym. Yet they decided to put a camera in this room. Stealing a mat or a dumbbell would mean carrying those rather large and bulky objects through the rest of the gym. Someone would probably notice. However, next to the mat room is a balcony on which people can work out or walk outside for a breath of air. It’s not large but there are no cameras on it, only pointing inside. It’s much easier to take a mat or a medicine ball and toss it over the ledge to someone below. So I responded:

Dear ,

I do understand the need of some cameras at the gym, outside the building and perhaps at prime entries, but I think there is an overkill going on.

There is a camera in the cooldown room. There is no way in or out of this except through a door that enters into the gym proper. Anyone stealing anything would have to tuck it (mostly mats and medicine balls and weights) under their clothes to get it out through the gym. There isn’t even room in there for people to bring a pack. If in fact something went missing and the staff said, someone stole a weight, would these videos even be looked at for something like that? If I’m being mugged in that room I’m sure someone would hear it in the gym.

So if they won’t “save” me and their efficacy as a deterrent is nebulous, why are they in there? A camera at the gym doors, and maybe where people put their packs makes sense but I feel there is absolutely no good reason to have them in every corner or in the cooldown room. You also say they are not used for surveillance yet images are relayed to the counter which means in fact that people can monitor them or watch.

So anyone working there or standing at the counter can see what’s going on, at least in part. This is not a secure monitoring.

I still cannot see how this measure protects staff, clients or deters thefts and vandalism. Why not have one in the locker rooms then too to make sure people don’t break into lockers? I would support some cameras but not the one in the cooldown room and perhaps there are others but I use the gym and not the pool areas.

Thank you,

Hi Colleen,

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on cameras in the fitness centre, the fitness centre has a number of blind spots which is why so many cameras, as you so eloquently stated – overkill, are required. Staff, in reference to security, requested that cameras, which have been in operation in the facility since the 1990’s be upgraded and increased as they often are working alone in the space. The fitness centre facility was originally built in 1976 and was actually a quarter of the existing space, over the years we have eliminated the pool lounge and spectator areas to make way for more fitness gear, consequently the space is extremely cut up. In order to maintain a consistent presence we required a number of cameras. You are completely correct in saying that the efficacy of cameras have not been proven OR disproven, however as an employer it is incumbent on us to address staff safety concerns. It is in poor form for Management to insinuate that we know better than the individuals involved and determine what makes them safe or feel safer.

We conducted a survey with staff and provided opportunities for patrons to comment on the use of cameras – you are the third person responding.

That said we depend on a number of tools to ensure good customer and staff experience in our facilities, this includes better conflict management training, site signage and lighting. If you are being mugged in the fitness centre – we have already failed our responsibility. The key for us is to prevent/deter any conflicts and create a positive environment.

You have not been specific about what you would like as an outcome.  I hope my comments have been helpful, if you have other concerns please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

I guess I wasn’t specific when I said it was overkill. Of course I need to send another letter pointing out that the cameras rarely deter the thieves because they probably know the images are rarely perused. The camera certainly didn’t make me feel better when I walked into the mat room one day to find this weirdo in his tighty whities laying on a map and humping it from what I could tell. By the time I could even find an attendant the pervert had wandered off. Had he been a different style of pervert and fondled me the cameras would have done nothing in stopping that. As I’d pointed out in my first letter, the cameras wouldn’t save me, they didn’t deter a pervert and should there have been pieces of me then the videos would be surveyed but only then. This person never addressed my comments about the non-secure monitor at the front desk after she told me that only the director could view them. So let’s see:

  1. no proof that it deters thieves
  2. will not keep people safe, will not endanger them
  3. no one can view but the executive director
  4. everyone at the counter can view the cameras in present time
  5. cameras are in spots where they do no good
  6. cameras aren’t in spots where things could actually be stolen
  7. Nebulous…the staff would be safer
  8. didn’t stop a pervert
  9. management doesn’t know what would make staff feel safer (her words)

In the end it seems a knee-jerk reaction in this world of everything under surveillance, and as she said I was only the third person to comment it tells me that we’re complacent to the infringement of our rights. The biggest pervert is the constant stare of those cameras and while management pretends they’re making their staff safer (as opposed to having to people on at a time) they are ignoring the fact that they’re infringing on their patrons’ privacy. When the tanks start rolling down the streets I imagine it will be much the same. Big Brother took a little longer to get here than 1984 but be assured he’s here.

2 Comments

Filed under crime, Culture, life, people, sports

The Sucky World of Being Robbed

In my life I’ve been robbed a few times, too many in fact. My first robbery was in Mexico City, the first place I traveled to alone. Having only a week there, I did a whirlwind tour of three places, starting in la ciudad Mexico and ending there. Returning on a Sunday, I went to Chapultapec Park and the world famous anthropology museum, Museo Nacional de Antropologia where, speaking hardly any Spanish at all, I still managed to carry on a conversation with a Spanish speaking guard and understand most of the signs in the museum.

Mexico City is vast, with a population topping 2o million at that time (over 8 million in the city proper). The subway is extremely cheap and the only way to get around quickly. I had been warned to keep my bags close and where I could see them and I did that, but as I boarded the subway train I was pushed on. Now I know that the crowded cities do this to pack the people on but it was a Sunday and not that crowded. As I was putting my transfer into my bag I noticed the slash through it where the guys who had pushed me on the train had taken my wallet. Lucky for me I had less than $10 USD and one credit card with a very non-Mexican name that I canceled immediately. The rest of my traveler’s checks were in my room. Unlucky for me, it was a Sunday, with no banks open and no place that would take a traveler’s check so I couldn’t eat dinner.

When I was in India, backpacking around, I locked down every pocket I could on my giant backpack, leaving only two side pockets open, which carried shampoo and dirty underwear. At one point I got stuck on a train, which had four open beds to every partitioned but open area. I had asked for the women’s carriage but hadn’t been given it. I couldn’t sleep because I was on the top bunk and my backpack was shoved under the bottom one, way too heavy to have been lifted had it even fit up top. My face was about six inches away from the ceiling fan, which luckily was covered. I kept looking down to check on my pack but at one point I just had to go to the bathroom, the squat toilet on a moving train (and how fun was that). Eventually when I disembarked I found that my shampoo and dirty underwear were gone. I hope they enjoyed both.

I was robbed again in New York City. By now, I was quite aware of the sneaky way in which robbers try to get your goods. I’d had a small pack to carry around with me for the week. But I let my guard down at the airport, at the last minute. My friends had driven me to the airport and we were have a coffee when a man came up on my left and asked us the time. Of course we all looked at him, unaware of the person behind me and on my right who grabbed my purse. We realized it in minutes but it was too late. Off went my purse, $200, two plane tickets, my film, my glasses, my contact case and all my ID (I had only brought the ID I needed though). The airline said they would replace my ticket for free but I had to pay for it first. Of course I couldn’t because I had no money or ID. This was before 9-11 because I can’t imagine how screwed I would have been otherwise. Luckily my friends could cover the cost and I could pay them back later. I don’t know what I would have done otherwise.

The most robberies I’ve experienced have actually been burglaries of my home or car. And they are the ones that have happened more recently. Several years ago I was home on a very hot night with my windows and doors open. My patio door faces the back yard and the other door does not face the street so not visible to anyone walking by. I was packing for a trip the next day and was in my den typing when I smelled cigarette smoke.

I don’t smoke but I looked up to see someone brazenly in my living room. Somewhat in a surreal state I ran into the room as the guy left and was gone by the time I could look out on the street. I called the police but to no avail of course. I believe it was my ex-drug addict neighbor, someone who knew where all the doors were. I searched the neighborhood that night, looking in every dumpster I could find, sure that he had taken what he needed, and dumped the rest.

The next day I had to get a driver’s licence before I could leave on my trip. All I had was an expired passport so I could get the license done but would not be allowed to pick it up until I had my birth certificate. Somehow a photo ID  like a passport isn’t good enough but anyone could walk in with my birth certificate and get my driver’s license picture shot and paid for. That makes a lot of sense. And of course I had to write back to my birth province for the birth certificate and ask my sister what hospital I was born in because I certainly didn’t know.

I made it through, canceling credit cards and paying for new ID. About two months later I received a call from a dumpster company where they had found my purse, complete with ID and even postage stamps. The purse and wallet were disgusting soaked with garbage juices but I reclaimed my ID and now have spares of a few things. But I was out the cost of the replacement ID, the purse and wallet and of course my cash. I’m even more cautious now but on a nice day at home, you’d think you could leave your door open. I have friends that live in a small town outside of Seattle and they never lock their doors.

Personally, I think I’ve done my time being robbed and burgled and that it’s now time to win the lottery. Hopefully I can write about that exciting change some day soon.

Leave a comment

Filed under crime, Culture, home, life, memories, security, travel

Book Review: Mistborn, Maledicte & Snow Crash

Through the snowbound holidays and the worst cold I’ve had in a very long time, I did a bit of reading. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson is old hat now. Written in the early 90s it still holds up as a cyberpunk, nearly futuristic world of hackers, commercialism and franchising taken to a new high. The Mafia is better organized and bigger than the Feds and everything is run by three-ring binders of rules.

Hiro Protagonist, last of the freelance hackers and best sword fighter in the world starts out as a Deliverator, a high-tech, super efficient, militarized pizza delivery guy, the franchise tightly run by the Mafia, who guarantee a pizza in 30 minutes or the Deliverator can be neutralized. Y.T. is a thrasher, a Kourier who skateboards through speeding traffic using a magnetic ‘poon to hitch rides on vehicles to various destinations. These two cross paths and fates, forming a loose knit team that aids each other in the real world and the Megaverse.

There is a virus running rampant that doesn’t just crash computers but crashes the minds of hackers. Many theories are put forth and there are some interesting bad guys with depth including Raven the ruthless Aleut. There were a few longish talking head sections when it got to theories on the virus and the early Sumerian language (as Laurie Anderson says, language is a virus) but Stephenson still managed to handle that fairly deftly. And there is a religious cult threatening to take over parts of California, run by the father of the Megaverse.

I found the novel a delight and many layered. The world was kinda dark and dire in some ways but adventuresome. There was definitely a tongue in cheek air to Stephenson’s writing that just gave me pure joy. It’s no wonder when it first came out that it was highly popular and still remains so. Hard to believe that when he wrote it Stephenson mentions that he coined the term avatar, and later added an addendum that avatar had been used in one early game. It’s worth a read and still stands the test of time.

Maledicte is by Lane Robins, who I workshopped with last summer. Granted I bought it because I met her, I have to say it was an entertaining, fast-paced, well-written read. Maledicte is the main character, vengeful, temperamental, charming and possessed by a god that should no longer exist (in the recent century the gods withdrew from involvement with humans). Maledicte starts as a feral street urchin and is honed by an ailing hedonist who knows the ways of the court.

Gilly is the faithful servant, in all senses of the word, to the old hedonist, too well trained in his role and too knowledgeable of what life would be like should he try to leave. He aids in Maledicte’s change and goals, often unwillingly. Maledicte is seeking the man who kidnapped his childhood friend and lover, Janus, bastard heir to an aristocratic family close to the throne.

The court is corrupt and overindulgent, living for scandals and gossip, willing to tear a person down if it will gain favor in some light. It’s closest  in style probably to that of Louis XIV, a bit later maybe but the fashion runs a close parallel. Mirabile is a creature of the court who killed her first husband and wants Maledicte for her own purposes. When he spurns her, she uses her considerable knowledge and skills to try and bring him down.

When Janus comes back into the scene, he is as much a creature of the aristocratic court as Maledicte, but in his own way he is moreso. He is ruthless and calculating and having got used tot he good life, he wants it all. Maledicte and Gilly are the viewpoint characters and Lane runs a fine line showing Malecdicte in a light that isn’t necessarily favorable but there is some empathy for his situation. However, if she had only gone with this viewpoint character, it may not have worked because Maledicte is malicious and murderous.

Gilly is the saving grace, the common man, with compassion to which the reader can relate. The twists and turns of this conniving and manipulative society are handled well and bloodily. Murder abounds through Maledicte and Janus’s schemes and in the end not everyone gets their just deserts but there is redemption. Maledicte’s character is refreshingly different from some of main fantasy characters in other novels. Robins created a convincing and cutthroat world.

Mistborn is Brandon Sanderson’s second novel and was as delightful as Elantris. He has created a unique world of oppressed workers called skaa on plantations and living in the cities. It takes place in a beleaguered world with a society that somewhat resembles the antebellum South. The Lord Ruler is a now inhuman god-emperor who has beaten down everyone for a thousand years. The world rains ash often, the sun is red and plants haven’t been green in centuries.

The elite of this society are the nobles, purebred and not skaa though physically they look no different, but the nobles are rich, pampered and favored by the Lord Ruler who keeps them in line with Inquisitors (whose eyes are metal spikes) and Obligators, the watchful religious class. Many nobles have special abilities, either one aspect or the full range of allomancy. They are able to burn metals that they have ingested to increase various aspects such as strength, senses, emotions, as well as sensing or obscuring the use of allomancy.

Kelsier is the only survivor of the pits, a mining operation that the Lord Ruler depends upon. He lost his wife and before was a master thief. He has been “hired” by the rebellion leader to organize the overthrow of the Final Empire. However, he has other plans on how to do that, but he keeps them secret. He is a halfbreed and a full powered allomancer, a Mistborn rather than a Misting who only has use of one of the eight metals. His friends fear that if he overthrows the emperor he might set himself up for the same position.

Vin is a waif, part of a thieving crew, who survives best by hiding and keeping attention away from herself. But she and her crew are chased by an Inquisitor who will kill thieving crews and any halfbreeds who exhibit powers. And Vin has unwittingly exhibited hers to an Obligator. She is saved and recruited by Kelsier and his crew who teach her how to use her Mistborn abilities while honing her to be a spy in the circle of nobility.

The story is one part a grand heist like Oceans 11, where there are many layers to the job, and the Lord Ruler’s treasury is possibly the draw. However, it is deeper than that, with human rights and freedoms the root of overthrowing a millennium of oppression and bringing about change. The odds are high though, because the Lord Ruler is immortal and all powerful, able to smite even the strongest allomancers without breaking a sweat. His Inquisitors are also inhumanly strong.

The use of metals for powers is unique and Sanderson gives a strong basis to it in the novel, making it a believable with a scientific aspect. Vin’s character develops and changes in a satisfying way and Kelsier’s motives are mysterious up until the last, keeping us guessing as to what he’s really after. Like Maledicte, Mistborn is a story of romance and intrigue. All three of these books were quite different and well written. The worlds had layers like most societies. Whereas Maledicte concentrated mostly on the aristocratic world and Snow Crash on the working class, Mistborn covered both parts equally. I enjoyed them enough that it was hard to put any down. I recommend all three as a very good read and worth the money.

Leave a comment

Filed under crime, Culture, entertainment, fantasy, history, horror, humor, life, Publishing, science fiction, Writing