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Seminoles to Install Surveillance Cameras, Record License Plates on Reservations

Next time you get drunk, hit the slot machines, and hook up with that hottie from accounting, be warned: Your debauchery may be recorded.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida has just received $595,000 from a federal Homeland Security fund to install four mobile surveillance towers and a dozen license-plate scanners on its lands.

Video cameras will be placed at random high-traffic spots throughout the tribe's reservations and casinos in Hollywood, Immokalee, Big Cypress, Brighton, Tampa, and Fort Pierce, recording information to be used when solving future crimes.

It's "both to ensure people's safety and to convey the message that it's not a place where you can get away with anything," says Gary Bitner, spokesman for the tribe's police department.

Sound a bit intrusive for red-blooded, gambling Americans? Well, it is. "There's a certain Big Brother aspect to this, as there is with any security equipment," Bitner admits.

Of course, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino has long been monitored by cameras and security officers.The difference now is that anyone driving on tribal land -- even if you're headed to a swamp buggy ride in Big Cypress -- could be on candid camera.

Police departments around the country, from Madison, Wisconsin, to Pittsburgh, have employed similar tactics to cut down on crime in downtown areas. Hillsboro Beach, Lighthouse Point, and Palm Beach use stationary license scanners to keep tabs on potential criminals driving through those towns.

Seminole reservations are public land, Bitner explains, so surveillance towers and license-plate scanners installed there are no different from those monitoring other towns.

As to why federal anti-terrorism funds were needed to buy them: "Every police agency has to be armed with the best equipment it can have to combat any potential terrorist," he says.

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Lisa Rab
Contact: Lisa Rab

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