I have said many times that part of the attractiveness of the town to which I am attached is that it sits at the end of a five mile long dead-end road as it tends to keep away the insincere. Highway 131 is the shortest state highway in the system running a mere 4.39 miles to be exact from US 101 to Main Street. There is one way in and one way out of town if you don’t count the winding and bicycle infested Paradise Drive.
And it is a town, not a city. Tiburon was originally incorporated as a city but for some reason prior to my tenure here decided that city was too strong a word and that town more accurate descriptor in the collective psyche of the 7000+ that reside therein.
The two lane that lead into town choke down to one lane at a big right turn known as Blackies Pasture which sits at the bottom of a hill and is often times occupied by a radar wielding officer. Cars driven by those unfamiliar with the lay of the land some flying over the crest of the hill into the waiting arms of the Tiburon PD who assess an entry tax based on the number of miles per hour over forty the car is traveling.
Our sense of impenetrability was recently pierced by the grizzly murder a local resident. She was in her mid-70’s with no known enemies. There had only been two murders that actually took place in the combined municipalities of Tiburon and Belvedere before when someone shot her in the head in her own yard. The combined effort of law enforcement did not nor have they ever developed any semblance of a suspect.
The two prior killings that were committed east of Highway 101 and west of San Francisco Bay were fluke type of things that did not impact the secure feeling that permeates the peninsula. The first one happened in Belvedere and was obviously a contract killing on a big time drug dealer. The victim was left in a pile of narcotics and cash. The money and his collection of Himalayan art was divided between the City of Belvedere, County of Marin and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. No one was ever fingered for the hit. The second one involved an adult son smiting his father using ordinary silverware that was destined for use at a dinner the two of them never shared. He was caught a few days later in San Leandro with the fork still in his pocket. The DA prosecuting the case asked me if I knew anything about the relationship between the two. I told him that I was acquainted with the father, did not know of anything going on between he and his son but that there would seem to have been issues.
The recent murder shook so at the roots of security that the call to take action took hold. A proposal for a camera system which would automatically photograph the license plate of each and every car entering town limits. For most bergs this would be an impossible task because the number of points of entry would necessitate too big of an expense without really establishing an impermeable barrier. It the case of our town these need be only 2 cameras, one on Tiburon Blvd. and one on the unlikely secondary means of egress, Paradise Drive. Baring an amphibious assault, no vehicle would be able to roll into town, do evil and then escape without detection. In the case of a heinous crime it would be a simple matter to go through all of the license plates of all of the cars coming into town during the relevant time period, working from the time it was committed, backward, and establish who has an alibi and who does not.
The potential for abuse and perceived erosion of our right of privacy cause a certain amount of controversy and gained our little borough a flash of national media publicity. It was a polarizing and therefore an interesting issue. It was the epitome of, “If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to worry about,” vs., “Don’t come crying to me when you wake up with numbers tattooed on your inner forearm.”
Examination of the pictures taken by the cameras would only be done in reaction to an event and not routinely just as the refs can’t call a penalty seen on an instant replay that wasn’t flagged during play. Skeptics saw this as an empty promise and also feared use in civil/family law situations to establish misbehavior on the part on an ex-spouse-to-be or an association with person and/or persons outside of the curtelage.
One impassioned local asked to hire me to address the Town Council as a paid lobbyist of sorts to argue against installation of the cameras on constitutional civil rights grounds. He was the brother of a gal with whom I had an association so I listened, had a spirited discussion regarding the golden age of individual liberty and the imminent approach of the jack-booted thugs under color of office after which I politely declined the job and the retainer. It was explained to the prospective client that I could not in all good conscience accept a fee for a service that I would be ineffective in performing. My status as a criminal defense lawyer would result in the formation of an opinion that I was advocating out of self-interest. The hue and cry would be heard coming from behind as I addressed the five members of the community elected to make decisions of this sort, “We know what you do. You just don’t want your clients to get caught by the police.”
If the notion of self-interest was examined any deeper than the polish on a toe nail it would be apparent to anyone with two brain cells that happened to spark that my desires are quite the opposite. I actually want then all to be apprehended. I don’t make any money on perpetrators that are never nabbed. The perfect situation from my perspective is that they should be arrested and then exonerated by my exploitation of the tiniest of loopholes through which only the most supreme of legal intellects could slip.
The belief that the practice of criminal defense law renders one “pro-crime” is unevolved at best. It ignores the fact that we are actually people too and don’t like to see individuals injured by the actions of others as well as the above stated pecuniary purpose fundamental to our very existence. If no one ever gets caught we have to find another way to make a living.
In the end fear prevailed as it is the emotion most effectively used and abused by government since the dawn of civilization. Time will tell if the cameras are the panacea they are touted to be but in the meantime, watch your ass when you come to our town.