Photography in Public is Not a Crime
There's been a lot of hassle in recent months, perhaps more than any time since September 11, 2001 about the photography of public places. Amateur and professional photographers alike are getting flack from security guards, the police and even the Coast Guard. The good news is that there's nothing illegal about it.
According to Bert Krages, a lawyer specializing in photography cases, "The general rule is that if something is in a public place, you're entitled to photograph it." This applies to government buildings and police themselves as well, even if law enforcement officers may not know it. "The Patriot Act does not restrict photography," says Krages, "neither does the Homeland Security Act."
In fact, according to Glenn Harlan Reynolds of Popular Mechanics the presence of cameras actually increases security. Police used their own footage while looking for clues in the Times Square car bomb incident, but brought in movies and photos shot by tourists as well.
Krages says that the best thing you can do when stopped from shooting by a security guard or police officer is to be very polite and ask what authority they have to stop you. If you're on public property, they don't have any. If they won't budge, stay polite and ask to speak to a superior.