Better luck next election, folks:
- Big Brother Coming to New York City (The Liberty Papers)
You see, CCTV surveillance cameras work so damn well in London that the Big Apple just has to follow suit:
By the end of this year, police officials say, more than 100 cameras will have begun monitoring cars moving through Lower Manhattan, the beginning phase of a London-style surveillance system that would be the first in the United States.
The Lower Manhattan Security Initiative, as the plan is called, will resemble London’s so-called Ring of Steel, an extensive web of cameras and roadblocks designed to detect, track and deter terrorists. British officials said images captured by the cameras helped track suspects after the London subway bombings in 2005 and the car bomb plots last month.
I blame the schools. Some fucking dolt at the New York Times actually wrote this shit, and s/h/its criminally incompetent editor let it through the door. As written, we are expected to apprehend that
- Cameras are expected to “detect, track, and deter terrorists” (and presumably other vile forms of criminal life, like serial litterers), and
- London’s vaunted and sophisticated “web of cameras and roadblocks” was singularly ineffective at deterring the 7/7 terrorists (and the recent car-bombing dilettantes) or at least detecting and tracking them before they lit the fuse
without noticing that there’s a slight discrepancy between our hypothesis (1) and our observed outcome (2). But hey — at least we have plenty of grainy black-and-white footage to show on CN-fucking-N the next day!
So, being responsible thinkers, we must ask ourselves: do cameras really reduce crime?
Shockingly, the chattering gasbags over at ABC asked themselves the same question:
- A City’s Eyes: Do Cameras Reduce Crime? (ABC News)
Before I share the dismal truth, let’s pretend we’re Cartesian rationalists for a minute and think this one through from first principles and some dubious (and undefined) axiomata. I think it usually goes like this:
Well, if I knew I wasn’t going to get caught, I might steal a chocolate bar from the corner store, or kick that puppy in the head. But I don’t do these things, because I know I might get caught, and that would really suck. So if the nice people at Leviathan Central put up cameras everywhere, everyone will get caught if they do bad things; knowing that, nobody will do bad things! Thus, surveillance cameras reduce crime.
For those of you keeping score from home, there are at least three dubious axiomata assumed by this argument:
- Everyone knows about the cameras (tourists, for instance, might not)
- Everyone who knows about the cameras is afraid of getting caught (suicide bombers, for instance, probably don’t give a shit what you do with their vapourized remains)
- Everyone who knows about the cameras and is afraid of getting caught is primarily motivated by that fear (violent drunks, for instance, might be angrier than they are afraid)
But let’s not quibble — let’s quote some statistics from that ABC article instead:
According to a British Home Office review of dozens of studies analyzing the cameras’ value at reducing crime, half showed a negative or negligible effect and the other half showed a negligible decrease of 4 percent at most. Researchers found that crime in Glasgow, Scotland, actually increased by 9 percent after cameras were installed there.
Well, shit. But that’s just those Brits, isn’t it? Surely Americans are more susceptible to lightpost-mounted video coercion, aren’t we?
In the United States, one of the most prominent examples was Tampa’s use of facial recognition technology in 2001. But the city’s police department dropped the technology two years later when it failed to result in a single arrest. The use of video surveillance was considered by the Oakland, Calif., police chief, but he ultimately found that “there is no conclusive way to establish that the presence of video surveillance resulted in the prevention or reduction of crime.”
Oh well, so cameras are a waste of taxes and just another cynical play on the fears of the many in the great game of security theatre. But at least they’re relatively benign, right? It’s not as though the people who watch your actions every day are going to — I dunno — out you to your parents or something, right?
And north of the 49th, we’re pulling the same sad shit:
Short version: we have this air traffic control centre in Surrey. These days, it’s patrolled by security guards, but in a few months, it’ll be “protected” by CCTV cameras and swipe-card readers. In view of the foregoing, that’s not such an awesome development. But those cameras are actually an upgrade, according to Nav Canada:
Air traffic controllers question the moves, but Nav Canada spokesman Ron Singer says the new systems amount to a security upgrade.
“We are making a final transition to a new system that combines electronic access with state-of-the-art cameras and we do have 24/7 surveillance. In fact, it is more secure. We think the new security measures we have in place will enhance security,” says Singer.
Singer says the security cameras placed throughout the building and its perimeter offer better security than the people currently on the ground. He says currently the security guards are not armed, and can only call 911 when there’s a problem, something that can also be done by those monitoring the facility in Ottawa.
Oh yeah, that makes me feel safe. (Next question: will the people monitoring the cameras in Ottawa have a direct line to the Surrey RCMP? Will they actually, you know, monitor the cameras rather than surf the ‘net and drink coffee? How long can a human being stare at an unchanging image on each of sixteen monitors and remain sane? Oh, never mind: we’re fucked.)
There’s also the question of what the blue bouncing fuck we’re doing “protecting” ATC centres with unarmed “security guards”, but we’re a bit touchy about the whole “guns” thing up here so I’m just not going to go there.