Oregon town installs 'a bit of Big Brother'

MADRAS, Ore. (AP) - If you're feeling alone in this Central Oregon town, you needn't for long.

Madras plans eight security cameras around town to deter crime and record what they missed. Later, they plan 25 more.

The surveillance, said Mayor Jason Hale, "is a tiny bit of Big Brother that will make sure the community is safe. This is not the 1950s anymore where everyone could trust everyone."

Police Chief Tom Adams said he hopes the $17,600 system - which includes the first eight cameras - will deter crime and provide photos for visitors to the city's Web site.

Several vandals, who had been spray-painting graffiti all winter were arrested recently.

Adams said that though he hopes the cameras will help nab criminals, "there wasn't any particular incident that really prompted us to buy them."

The first installations will be at a traffic circle where the city's first public art - a mama grizzly bear and three clubs - was placed recently as well as the popular skateboarder's park.

Bend officials eventually gave up on the idea after residents, vacationers and business owners objected to the potential intrusion on privacy.

But Madras, Hale said, is different.

"This will offer security that our community wants and needs."

Jefferson County-Madras Chamber of Commerce Director Hollie Van Wert said she hopes the program will help the area.

"We're a beautiful county and we haven't been noticed," she said. "It would be wonderful for people to see what you don't see when you're driving through on Highway 97."

As for the Orwellian aspects, Van Wert said "We're just catching up with the other cities in this way."

And the reality is, Adams said, "you can't go anywhere anymore without getting caught on a camera. We're monitored continually."

Schools "are covered in cameras, and have been for years now," he said. He predicted that the ones planned for Madras "will have a drastic impact. It will save the community money and the court system money."