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Amateur photogs help track criminals

My Opinion
Alan Stewart, Staff Writer

There’s really no telling how many photographs containing suspected terrorists Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are floating around from those who were near or close to the site of the recent deadly bombings near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
As one of the best known road races in the world, countless people captured images of friends and loved ones taking part in the event. Some, even one I received last week, contained the Tsarnaev brothers in the background.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation ‘ and who knows who else ‘ used a team of eagle-eyed inspectors to go through videos and photos from Boston to figure out who the suspects were. As we now know, there’s only one Tsarnaev left, and he’s in custody in a hospital recovering from a multitude of injuries suffered during a shoot-out with police.
Now think about how quick the FBI could have pegged the brothers as the masterminds behind the two blasts were it not for cameras and photographs taken by the public. Keep in mind that the images of the Tsarnaevs that the FBI shared on its website weren’t taken by FBI agents; they were taken by the Average Joe. There are a couple of grainy, security store videos that contain the Tsarnaevs, but it was the photos from folks like you and me who helped identify them.
As Kentucky’s marquee event to the world, it’s understandable that the folks at Churchill Downs want to keep things safe for the thousands who will attend the Kentucky Derby, and, for that matter, Kentucky Oaks.
Recently, Churchill Downs officials announced additions to its usual list of items banned from carry-in to the track.
The ban that stuck out to me (outside of the banning of cans and coolers, though you can buy coolers and ice in the infield) are cameras with detachable lenses and cameras equipped with lenses more than six inches in length.
By and large, this means unless you are using a cell phone or a pocket-sized camera, you won’t be taking any photos on Derby Day.
The Pentax K-1000 film camera my parents gave me on my graduation day in 1989? Banned. The Canon 60D with an 18-55 wide-angle zoom I use several times a week? Banned. Most of the cameras used by newspapers and photo agencies at the finish line at the Boston Marathon? Banned. Likely many of the cameras used to peg the Tsarnaev brothers? Banned.
Several years ago when I photographed President George W. Bush at the Kentucky Center for the Arts, the Secret Service simply asked me to turn the camera on and take the lens off. They looked through the lens, put it back on the camera and snapped a picture. The inspection process took all of about 15 seconds. Apparently, that’s too much of a hassle for Churchill Downs to consider.
In a press release, Churchill Downs said: ‘While large numbers of our Churchill Downs team and our law enforcement and public safety partners will be working around and throughout our grounds, fans can play a role in ensuring that the Kentucky Derby and Oaks are enjoyable and safe events.’
The easiest way for fans to play a role would have been doing what they were going to do anyway, which is capturing one of the world’s great spectacles.