Skip to comments.Chicago, Houston Consider Cameras in Private Businesses, Homes
Posted on 02/28/2006 8:02:23 AM PST by boryeulb
George Orwell's classic dystopian novel 1984 opens with a surveillance helicopter chopping its blades menacingly through London, peeking inside apartment buildings. The protagonist, a conscience-stricken state worker with no way to blow the whistle, goes home to a "telescreen" watching and reporting his every word, move and even mood.
The totalitarian state apparatus of Orwell's bleak vision was patterned after the world's Communist parties. But many of today's 21st-century Democrat and Republican politicians see no problem with the kind of permanent police dragnet envisioned in the novel.
While Orwell's homeland of the United Kingdom is still the most-surveilled on Earth, recent actions by two big-city mayors will help the United States in the race to capture this dubious honor.
Chicago's mayor Richard Daley, heir to decades of ruthless Democrat machine politics, has been on a camera binge for quite some time now. In late 2004, Daley's Chicago announced plans to install an elaborate network of surveillance cameras in the city. Initially 2,000 cameras strong, the network is designed for ever-expanding, infinite capacity. And this camera network is to have a special feature: software that alerts police to allegedly "suspicious" behavior detected on camera. It sounds like something from the film "Minority Report," but many studies of similar behavioral-algorithm systems have shown high rates of false positives -- "hits" on innocent people. So, watch out -- if the software decides you're "wandering aimlessly," a heavily-armed SWAT team may not be far behind.
That software, paid for with a multimillion dollar grant from the federal Department of Homeland Security, was set to go online in March 2006 -- next month. At the time, Daley justified the surveillance net to the New York Times by saying, "We're not inside your home or your business. The city owns the sidewalks. We own the streets and we own the alleys."
But now that the system's software is set to go live, Daley says cameras on street corners and train platforms just aren't enough for him. Yep, just 15 months later, Daley is ready to admit that he does indeed want eyes inside your private business. He endorsed last week a bill pending in the City Council to require police surveillance in private buildings.
Under the plan, private businesses that remain open more than 12 hours a day and bars that remain open until last call would have to install the cameras also. The bill as written now would not require that businesses hook up their mandatory cameras to city networks, but Chicago Tribune reports that eventually, "the city does plan to link cameras in office and apartment buildings and other private properties to its system."
If you thought that was bad, get a load of what's going on in Houston. There, the police chief wants cameras placed in commercial downtown Houston. As opposed to the situation in Chicago, where the camera plan was introduced with a public-relations focus on placing the cameras in high-crime areas of town, downtown Houston is a high-pedestrian, low-crime area.
What exactly are the cameras there for? (Maybe Houston police will follow the lead of the Alabama State Troopers who, finding themselves at a control panel of cameras in a low-crime area, used them to ogle college girls.)
And here's the kicker: Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt is also advocating that the local building code be changed to require that private apartment complexes install surveillance cameras. Hurtt even said he wants cameras installed, telescreen-style, in private single-family homes if he decides there have been "too many" calls for police assistance from the home.
Hurtt invoked the name of Orwell's dictator in defending his radical proposition: "I know a lot of people are concerned about Big Brother, but my response to that is if you are not doing anything wrong, why should you worry about it?"
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is supposed to guarantee protection from unreasonable searches. Hurtt's desire, like Daley's to constantly watch presumably innocent Americans on private property is both unreasonable and unconstitutional.
Democrat Mayor Bill White, who appointed Hurtt, has been equivocating about Hurtt's outrageous idea as the public reaction is tested. If enough Houstonians stand up for their rights to private property, White presumably won't push through the extreme surveillance program. But if Texans don’t stand for the idea that a man's home is his castle, the plan will almost assuredly move ahead.
And camera fever isn't confined to just those two cities. Voters in Philadelphia, birthplace of the Declaration of Independence, may have a chance to weigh in. A city councilman there wants to put the idea of cameras in high-crime areas to a popular vote. Philadelphians may want to consider the example of Chicago and Houston before embarking what is likely to be a slippery slope.
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I remember when I read 1984 about 40 years ago I said to myself "This stuff will never happen. I was wrong.
They're such hypocrites.
Several generations of Americans have been totally brainwashed as to the meaning of the *law* as it was intended by the Founders.
Ah yes, that would explain the millions of pot smoking Americans,the failure of Prohibition, the traffic law scofflaws, the worn paths across public parks right next to the "Keep Off the Grass" signs, the billions of dollars owed the IRS, etc, etc.
Where ya from, bub? This country was built on disobeying "authority" and we're better off for it.
About 40% of colonials participated or were loyal to the Colonies. About 20% were Tories. The remaining 40% were fence sitters, waiting to see which way the wind blew.
Wonder what his FR screen name is?
"Given the choice, I'd go for a nice lakeside cottage on a few acres and a gravel road, at least 50 miles away from the nearest urban jungle!"
Everyone has that choice.
I would rather be rural and poor, than rich living in a sewer.
I can't recall where I read this, but it referred to the number of colonists acting against the British before the "national" military effort in 1775... many were outraged, but only a handful were involved e.g. the Sons of Liberty, Stamp Act protests, Boston Tea Party, etc. Of course, when it was clear that the Colonial government would unite and support the effort by organizing a government sanctioned Army there was more support... but as you point out still not a majority.
You and me both my friend, you and me both.
We all were. Orwell was just a bit off on the date.
The real turning point were the French and Indian Wars (which was the first real World War) during which the Colonials saw just how badly the British used them, then demanded that they (the Colonists) pay for the war. The colonials were of the opinion that through their citizenship and payment of taxes and blood, they had payed for the war.
From The Treaty of Paris (1763) the revolution was a foregone conclusion, becoming only a matter of when.
Thanks for the clarification.
Yes, voters are idiots. They let themselves become lulled into a false sense of security of letting government think for them. We see it all over in smoking bans, government mandated health insurance in business, minimum wage and now, security cameras where there is no need.
Socialism is alive and unfortunately, well, in the country.
"Cheap,Democrat-knocking points. Draconian scheme that is the equal of anything in 1984, hatched by a democrat?"
The money came from a Republican administration. Homerland Insecurity loves this stuff.
Perhaps some are using 1984 as a manual.
Maybe that's Roscoe (Mojave) or robertpaulsen....
Right there with you, Gabz!!!
That's suspicious behavior.
This stuff makes my head want to explode. But what is really heartbreaking are the numbers of supposed "conservatives" that see no problem with the idea of Big Brother/Nanny Government.....whether it is cameras, or seatbelt laws, or smoking bans, or food controls.
Please leave me your guns and stuff. We're gonna have a helluva war to fight here and will need all the powder we can get.