FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The 76-year-old snowbird wasn't planning on landing on the Internet that morning.
Paul Spates woke up at 5:15 a.m. on April 9 for his daily walk along the Hollywood Beach Boardwalk. Somewhere between New York and Fillmore streets, he became the victim of a severe beating and robbery that was caught on video.
Much to his embarrassment and dismay, Spates' attack is now eternalized on the Internet. He found out how much so when he returned to his home in Massachusetts earlier this summer and learned that nearly everyone at his senior center had already watched it.
"All you have to do is Google the words 'Paul' 'Spates' 'Hollywood' and it's there," he said recently.
With the proliferation of surveillance cameras everywhere, videos like these quickly are becoming an effective crime-fighting tool for law enforcement. But as police use them with increased frequency, more victims are saying they feel conflicted between the importance of seeking justice versus having their crimes shown repeatedly to the public.
"I wish there was a way to hit a button and delete all of them," Spates said.
In his case, a surveillance camera perched near the entrance of Mamacita's Mexican Grill and Bar captured the footage of two men pummeling him. They broke his nose and cheekbone before walking away with his $19 watch.
Hollywood police released the footage immediately, hoping someone would recognize the two men in the grainy, out-of-focus video. The local media played it repeatedly.
It worked: Police arrested two men weeks later.
Some South Florida police agencies release videos almost daily, depicting everything from car burglaries to homicides played out before a camera.
"No doubt cameras have become one of the greatest tools in solving crimes, and there are more out there everywhere you look," said Broward Sheriff's Office Deputy Detective Victor Carrasquillo. "The cameras are paramount."
Officials say they don't keep track of how often videos crack cases, but point out that some of the most notorious cases in South Florida were solved with the help of cameras.
Among them is the infamous Dunkin' Donut case, where a group of gang members pulled off a string of violent armed robberies across Palm Beach and Broward counties, leaving a trail of injured victims and one man dead. Investigators have credited surveillance video taken at several doughnut shops in Delray Beach as key leads in that case.
While law enforcement agencies embrace the cameras, many acknowledge that replaying the videos may cause victims more anguish.
Earlier this year, a group of gunmen stormed into a Hollywood jewelry store and pulled a $1 million heist. During the incident, one of the men pointed a gun at a baby. Police handed copies of the violent encounter to the media the next day, but made a request to blur the victims' faces.
Hollywood police spokesman Lt. Norris Redding, who made the rare request, said his department often finds itself weighing the importance of publishing the video versus the potential of upsetting victims.
"For us, it's black and white. We put the video out there as quickly as possible to catch the bad guys," he said. "It's usually the victim's call. If they feel they will be further victimized, then it's something we have to consider before we put it out there."
Cindy Legenord says she understands the value of the videos, but hasn't been able to bring herself to watch one that was released in August by the Plantation Police Department.
The video shows the Aug 26 shooting death of her cousin, Maxon Lauriston, 27, outside a Plantation hotel bar. Unable to identify the gunman, police have urged local media to replay the video. The case remains unsolved.
The footage shows a man entering the hotel's club with three women and two men. The same man is later seen chasing Lauriston outside the bar and shooting him. Lauriston falls to the ground as the man runs off.
"We want everyone to keep watching it, but we haven't been able to watch it again," Legenord said. "Nobody should have to watch someone in your family killed over and over again in a video."
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Abraham Sehazion, a convenience store clerk robbed at gunpoint on Aug 22, says he's watched the surveillance video of the incident many times. The video shows a group of hooded men storming his store in Dania Beach. The group steals cigarettes and cash as one man holds a gun to Sehazion's head.
While Sehazion says his nerves act up every time he watches the attack, his biggest fear is that someone else might stumble upon the video on the Internet: his mother.
"I haven't told her I was robbed," he said. "I don't think she can watch it. It will kill her."
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