Skip to comments.Surveillance Cameras Are Not All That
Posted on 05/05/2013 8:49:16 AM PDT by Kaslin
Video surveillance cameras have been growing in popularity for years, but in recent weeks their advance has gotten a turbo boost. After helping to identify two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings, they went from occasionally desirable to universally vital.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, which already has some 10,000 cameras, said the city would keep on adding cameras -- perhaps outdoing his predecessor, who dreamed of a camera on every corner. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg took a similar tack: "You wait -- in five years, the technology is getting better, there will be cameras every place."
The public seems fine with that. A recent New York Times/CBS News poll found that 78 percent of Americans welcome video monitoring.
It was seen as useful before, but the Boston attack cloaked it in glory. Three days afterward, police released images of the suspects, which apparently flushed them out. The next day, one of them was dead and the other was in custody.
There is no doubt that the cameras were a big help this time. But that doesn't mean they are generally a good idea -- much less a crucial tool in fighting terrorism and crime.
Surveillance cameras were originally touted as a strong deterrent, scaring away bad guys fearful of being caught on tape. But these devices have a disappointing record in action. In some places, they noticeably reduce crime. In others, they have the same effect as a potted plant.
In the Boston bombings, the cameras utterly failed in their preventive function. Not only did the bombings occur; they occurred in perhaps the most heavily photographed spot in America that day. Besides the permanent video cameras in operation, hundreds of spectators with cellphones were eagerly capturing the scene.
The alleged killers could hardly have been unaware of their exposure. They obviously chose the finish of the marathon precisely because of all the people and lenses that would be there when the explosives detonated. They made no effort to conceal or disguise their faces to avoid being identified.
In this instance, the footage did help in catching the culprits. But one success is not enough to validate the whole enterprise. Terrorism, after all, is an extremely rare event, particularly compared to ordinary violent crime -- and, unlike crime, it tends to occur in places of high visibility.
Putting video gear in areas that are obvious potential terrorist targets is one thing. Putting them on every corner of an entire city is another. Some places are enviably safe without surveillance, which means any cameras installed there should be color-coordinated, since they will be primarily decorative.
They will fall victim to the law of diminishing returns. If you put out a couple of mousetraps, you may catch some mice. If you put out dozens, you may not catch many more. The second 10,000 cameras won't add nearly as much crime-fighting value as the first 10,000 -- or possibly even the first 1,000.
Supporters may ask: What's the harm? One drawback is that taxpayers are not composed of cash. Buying a camera costs money; so does maintaining it and monitoring the images it generates. A dollar spent on surveillance video is a dollar that can't be spent on foot patrols, police training, DNA tests or streetlights.
Another is that cameras contribute greatly to the steady erosion of personal privacy. Americans are generally oblivious to this phenomenon because they are oblivious to the multitude of unblinking eyes watching them in the course of a day. If each of us had a little alarm that went off every time we came into camera range, we might be less agreeable to the monitoring.
Of course, the impact varies demographically. A typical middle-aged white male can count on being largely ignored by the cops watching live video feeds. In camera-rich Britain, it turns out, the eyes in the control room tend to focus on two groups: dark-skinned young males and fetching young females.
Cameras may also soften us up for even deeper intrusions. If video feeds are so great, why not add audio? If you can stand being watched whenever you leave home, surely you won't mind if every word is heard as well. And how about a tiny drone hovering over your front door, round the clock -- for the rest of your life?
Enthusiasts for electronic surveillance may say: If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. But there's a reason people don't live in glass houses.
The world shown in the TV show Person of Interest coming to your world soon.
“78% of Americans welcome video cameras”
Says CBS/NYT Poll
Well fine. Lets fit those 78% volunteers with permanent video cameras and then the thought police will only have to worry about us 22%
“And I for one, welcome our new Fascist overlords.”
It doesn’t seem to be working in Chicago.
Instead, what we saw in Boston was video monitoring, in which video cameras are put in public places mainly to record what is going on -- without necessarily having anyone watch what the cameras are seeing. The perpetrators were identified after the police and the general public combed through hours of recorded videos and still images.
Let's just say that there isn't any 'surveillance' footage that the public has seen.
One thing I like to do on Youtube sometimes is watch reality police shows from the UK, shows like Traffic Cops and Motorway Cops. On those shows, the literally millions of CCTV cameras that blanket the UK are always touted as a wonderful thing. Bar districts are blanketed by dozens or even hundreds of cameras and police operators do watch them. Everything is seen and recorded.
But they take it one step further. Since all car license plates in the UK are a common size, shape, and text font, they have what they call “ANPR”...automatic number plate recognition. A police car fitted with a video camera, or a fixed video camera, can see your car, scan it, read the license plate, get the registration, and instantly check if the car has insurance, has been taxed, has an MOT (safety inspection), has “markers” for drugs or illegal activity, whether the registered owner has a proper driver’s license for it...all without the officer lifting a finger. If a plate pings the ANPR system, the police can pull the car over and actually seize it if it’s being driven without insurance or if the owner has a suspended license or no license at all. They use them to issue the congestion tax for cars driving into central London...supposedly every street and highway into and out of London has ANPR cameras on it that scan every single car coming and going.
The geek side of me is impressed with the technology. The conservative side of me is concerned what would happen if something like this ever became more widespread on this side of the pond.
“If video feeds are so great, why not add audio? If you can stand being watched whenever you leave home, surely you won’t mind if every word is heard as well. And how about a tiny drone hovering over your front door, round the clock — for the rest of your life? “ How about more more like the concept trailer for the Grey State.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gy7FVXERKFE. If the drone is out side your door how long before it comes in. Look up The Securitate. The Romanian secret police, sort of a little brother of the Stasi. It was run by Nicolae CeauÈescu a meglomaniacal dictator. One of the last things they were tasked to do before the whole system collapsed was have every phone in Romania not only monitored while in use but be designed to selectively monitor conversations in the home when the phone sat idle. If you nothing to hide comrade why should you object? Fortunately collapse occurred and the Army sided with the people when they couldn’t take being starved and frozen to death anymore.
Like for all of your guns now resting on the bottom of the lake?
We let these bomber into our country and some liberals think we should suffer for it? How about we simply keep out the Muslims and others that wish us harm?
Thought comes to mind that when you’re watching everything, you’re watching nothing.
Camera’s are a toughie. They can be incredibly useful when for example some crazy thing happens like Boston, or a murder happens, or a store gets robbed, to quickly find the perp, or even keep an innocent person from being arrested. The problem is the government will always always take it too far, like the example of London, and use it as a income source, or worse. I think it can be good to have cameras if only they are used for investigative purposes. And I can see them for large events being used in live mode to look for muslims wandering around with backpacks...but there is a fine line that government always crosses.
Great show, though...
Latching onto this thread to ask a question:
Does anyone know of a good, reliable pocket audio/video recorder?
I had a little pen camera that worked for a bit, but died.
I’d carry it running all the time whenever carrying my pistols CCW.
And advise would be appreciated.
Note that surveillance cameras did not prevent the Boston bombing. And I have to ask, who is monitoring these cameras without daydreaming or falling asleep? (Girl watching?) After all, despite its surveillance cameras, isn't Chicago known, at least informally, as the murder capital of the world? This is déjà vu of TSA's full-body scanners.
As a side note, anybody know if George Soros bought stock in the foreign companies who probably manufacture these cameras? Rumors had questioned if Soros, or thugs like Soros, bought stock in companies who made full-body scanners.
Re: “The thought police will only have to worry about us 22%”
That would be “Profiling.”
Also against the law.
Perhaps we can call it “Catch 22%.”
Most of the convenience store cameras and many of the bank cameras have such poor quality I don’t know why they bother.