Tiburon murder reignites surveillance debate

September 23, 2009 5:36:24 PM PDT
The murder of a 75-year-old woman in the quiet town of Tiburon has reignited a debate over surveillance cameras. Police say the murderer's car could have been caught on camera, but requests for the surveillance equipment have not been approved.

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Investigators searched all day for clues inside the home of 75-year-old Joan Rosenthal -- found dead by her cleaning lady Tuesday morning.

Tiburon's chief of police believes a security camera system could have helped in the investigation. Because there are only two entry points to the city, any car entering or leaving town would be caught on camera.

"We would look at any license plate that came out during that time period, but we will be looking for people that either had a prior history of criminal violence or had some indicator they may be involved in a crime of that type," Chief Michael Cronin said.

Pinole has a similar system that records license plates and runs them through a data base.

Cronin wants cameras on Tiburon Boulevard and on Paradise Drive. The cost would be about $150,000. The City Council will review the matter in November.

This is not the first time the police department has proposed cameras.

"If you have a license plate that is issued by a government entity displayed on a car, driving on a public roadway, the courts have long decided there is no right to privacy then," Cronin said.

There have been only four murders in Tiburon in the past 40 years. Sally Shepard was Rosenthal's best friend. She understands how no one seems to have heard a gunshot.

"If you heard something that was a gunshot and are in a neighborhood like this, is a gunshot the first thing you think of, perhaps a kid with a firecracker or a car backfiring," Shepard said.

Tiburon police are asking anyone who may have heard or seen anything between 6 p.m. Monday and 9 a.m. Tuesday to contact them.

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