Friday, August 17, 2001
Late summer huzzahs
Three cheers for the Carlisle Conservation Foundation (CCF) and the ConsCom, for their part in providing the town with the best entertainment we've seen around here in a long time. Usually, August in Carlisle is quiet, way too quiet for a newspaper trying to fill its pages. Now, however, thanks in part to funding provided by the CCF, and with the approval of the ConsCom, we can all enjoy watching Carlisle's wooly lunch bunch work their way systematically across Towle Field. These sheep make an impressive sight witness the number of cars pulled over on Westford Street; the sound of cameras clicking away almost drowns out the munching. And what a thorough job they do, too. The field at the intersection of West and South Streets looks as if a benign brush fire swept through there, decimating the poison ivy and buckthorn.
Watching the process of shepherd interacting with sheep and herding dogs makes for a fascinating in-town field trip. Driving by the fields at night, one notes that the reclining sheep in the moonlight look like boulders littering the cleared conservation land, almost an extension of the stone walls. Their very presence is like a little history lesson, recalling a time when the sight of such a flock was common.
It is so satisfying to think that our town came up with such a perfect solution, one that is ecologically sound, fiscally prudent and aesthetically pleasing. It's not often you hear those three terms used together. This experiment has been so successful that I suggest we get CCF and ConsCom working on their next project mosquito control. Perhaps a multitude of frogs?
Watching for Vandals and Thieves
According to Mosquito police blotter reports, mailboxes in town have become popular targets of vandals. Although this isn't the most serious crime that occurs in Carlisle, it's probably the most consistent other than exceeding the speed limit in a motor vehicle. I feel fortunate that my mailbox has not been victimized, but I empathize with fellow Carlislians who have been less fortunate.
Imagine it's been a hot, muggy, summer day and you arrive home from work to a hot, stuffy house, only to discover that a thunderstorm has fried your well pump, your answering machine, and the thermostat for your air conditioning system. Fortunately, your telephone and refrigerator still work so you make yourself a tall, cold drink and start working the phone to summon the appropriate repair people. Then you go down to the basement and pull out the box fan, open some windows and get some of that cooler evening air circulating through the house, particularly the bedroom.
The next morning you're leaving for work late after waiting for the arrival of repair people, and as you pull out of your driveway you notice that your mailbox has been smashed in with a baseball bat. Not only that, but the wooden arm that extends from the mailbox post is cracked. Lightning is an act of God, and we know God is not malicious by definition, but last night some mortal, probably a teenager, decided to have some "fun" at your expense. This is the most disheartening part of the day.
Of course, if you knew who did this you could call the Carlisle Police Department. They would probably call the parents of the youngster and inform them of their child's escapades, and you might soon have an apology and a new mailbox. But you were asleep last night when the act was perpetrated and there are no clues to speak of.
I've fantasized that if I were the victim of mailbox vandalism, I would respond by hiding an inexpensive digital camera in or near the mailbox, coupled to a headlight-sensing circuit that would snap a picture of the license plate of all passing vehicles. Well, this got me thinking. From a community point of view, wouldn't it be nice to have such license plate cameras at key intersections in Carlisle? I could imagine sixteen cameras at the periphery of Carlisle, on each of the sixteen roads that cross the town line. A half-dozen more cameras, strategically placed within Carlisle, would complete the coverage.
I reread a few recent police blotters with this license plate camera system in mind and discovered that it might be useful in solving a host of other crimes that are more serious than mailbox vandalism, including burglaries, theft of equipment from construction sites, etc.
So I shared my fantasy with friends and neighbors and got a pretty resounding negative reaction to the idea the key objection being invasion of privacy. I guess there's a trade-off between justice and privacy. We are required to report our earnings to the government every year so that taxes can be levied fairly. Motor vehicles must have publicly visible license plates and VIN numbers. Even the degree to which we can tint our car windows is legislated. So would license plate cameras in Carlisle, that inexpensively automate the most tedious part of a police patrol, be illegal? And if not, would they make Carlisle a better place to live? Or would they have an overall negative impact? Perhaps a trial with a single camera at the center of town could help us answer these questions.
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