Reporting from Lancaster, Pa. -- This historic town, where America's founding fathers plotted during the Revolution and Milton Hershey later crafted his first chocolates, now boasts another distinction.
It may become the nation's most closely watched small city.
Unlike anywhere else, cash-strapped Lancaster outsourced its surveillance to a private nonprofit group that hires civilians to tilt, pan and zoom the cameras -- and to call police if they spot suspicious activity. No government agency is directly involved.
Perhaps most surprising, the near-saturation surveillance of a community that saw four murders last year has sparked little public debate about whether the benefits for law enforcement outweigh the loss of privacy.
"Years ago, there's no way we could do this," said Keith Sadler, Lancaster's police chief. "It brings to mind Big Brother, George Orwell and '1984.' It's just funny how Americans have softened on these issues."
"No one talks about it," agreed Scott Martin, a Lancaster County commissioner who wants to expand the program. "Because people feel safer. Those who are law-abiding citizens, they don't have anything to worry about."
A few dozen people attended four community meetings held last spring to discuss what sponsors called "this exciting public safety initiative." But opposition has grown since big red bulbs, which shield the video cameras, began appearing on corner after corner.