Friday, August 31, 2007

Big Brother, Where Art Thou

August 29, 2007; A Charlestonian VIEWPOINT. Fox 24 News reported this evening that surveillance cameras are planned to be placed throughout Downtown Charleston to deter crime and target criminals. There are not many better ways to say it than in Incubus’ 1984; “Yeah, 3, 2, 1…Lights, Camera, Trans-action.” Considering the VIEWPOINT is multifarious, we ask you consider the following perspectives on this topic:
You, we, I simply don’t have anything to worry about unless we are committing a crime. Right? And, video cameras will protect us from the apparent criminals hanging out on each and every corner. Two seemingly good points. Neither do we overlook the fact that this is the methodology of Charleston's relatively new Police Chief, Gregory G. Mullen. He used a similar tactic in Virginia Beach, his previous city of employment, installing a system of video cameras based on biometric facial recognition.
Studies show, however, that video cameras do not make a marked difference in the rate of crime. The British government found cameras having little or no effect on crime in a three year study performed by the Center for Criminology on London. London, in fact, is the most surveilled city to date. Yet, a Mercedes was somehow still found parked outside a nightclub full of fuel and shrapnel just several months ago. VIEWPOINT notes it was an alert bodyguard for the club that noticed the car and saved the day (well, night); not the inital use of the cameras.
Here in the U.S., Congress has openly discussed data showing that crime is simply pushed from open areas where the cameras are placed, to unmonitored locations. Hmmmm, Musical Crime.
VIEWPOINT found it rather astonishing that as the story rolled out here in Charleston, the Associated Press reported on August 28, 2007; VIRGINIA BEACH -- The city's $200,000 facial-recognition program was beset by technical problems and has not been used in nearly two years, documents show. The program, which was supposed to help police identify and catch criminals in tourist areas, also did not lead to a single arrest, Police Chief A.M. "Jake" Jacocks Jr. said.
VIEWPOINT wonders if Charlestonians are satisfied with an investment in systems proven less than useful in deterring crime while purchasing only the illusion that future technological innovations will finally provide total security. Or, does the health of a thriving city lie in a more human investment?
We have an about invest in the children of the East and West Sides of town. Potential reductions in crime rates could be realized within a ten year period. Meanwhile, we'd be building our future workforce, hoping to fulfill initiatives such as the Charleston Digitial Corridoor with our very own residents.
Personally, VIEWPOINT is just not sure investing in a giant fishbowl is really worth while, what, with all the humidity already in the south. Our 1992 publication of Random House Webster’s College Dictionary defines surveillance as “a watch kept over someone or something; esp. a prisoner.” At its best, a surveillance system may help make an identification. At its worst, imagine the 1984ish scenarios you've heard and read about playing out within our lifetimes.
Please share your point of view here. Be kind to each other, but please let us know how you feel about our collective future monitoring. And, thanks for stopping by!