Comment of the Day Runner-Up: Cameras on the Street, Before and After Boston

COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: CAMERAS ON THE STREET, BEFORE AND AFTER BOSTON “Before Boston, my attitute on red light cameras was (1) there is no expectation of privacy on the roads, in your cars or otherwise in public, (2) no person is actually monitoring these cameras, you paranoid freaks and (3) only those who were breaking the law had anything to worry about. After Boston my attitude is the same plus (4) WE NEED MORE CAMERAS and for tapes to be saved at least thirty days to aid law enforcement!” [mel, commenting on Headlines: Challenging Keystone Pipeline Challenge; Watching ExxonMobil Campus Grow]

31 Comment

  • One could argue that if it’s perfectly okay for a cop to patrol a given area, then it only makes sense to expand the scope of those patrols by giving the police the benefit of technology. What is a camera, if not just another eye on the beat? But then I think maybe this is how it starts. A perfectly reasonable answer for a very real problem, and then you wake up one day and realize that the sum total of all the solutions to all your problems has produced a true police state.

  • As it’s been said, people who are willing to give up freedoms for safety, deserve neither. This is the slipperiest slope of them all.

    If you think government won’t over-reach once they have this tool, just look at the full police state of Great Britain.

  • The problem is not surveillance, it’s the ludicrous number of things that are crimes. If it is difficult to go through a normal day without a minor infraction, and everything you do is recorded, enforcement will come down on those who are disfavored.

  • Great Britain? Police State?

    I think real police states are collectively laughing at that theory.

  • But it’s not that easy. It’s perfectly fine for owners of private property to install cameras for security purposes. So what happens if every private property owner in an area has cameras for surveillance purposes? We have had cases where cops consulted with businesses to see if they had footage of a crime under investigation. If we can have surveillance by private entities, why complicate things? I don’t see the material difference between being watched by a Walgreen’s parking lot camera and a police camera installed on a sidewalk.

  • Number of people killed by lightning strike in USA (2012): 28

    Number of people killed by terrorism in USA (2012-13): 3

    So you are literally TEN TIMES more likely to be killed by lightning than terrorism, at least, and that is enough to get you grovelling and begging for constant government surveillance?

    Quit acting like a terrified child cowering under the sheets, and at least make an attempt at living up to the ideals upon which this country was founded.

  • @purdue, true there are many more police states, but Great Britain is the best example, it’s similar to us in culture and very quickly (less than 10 years) became inundated with cameras. It does prevent/deter some crime, but it is also widely used for political purposes, to prosecute protesters, and anyone who is not following “a typical desired routine”. And it does create selective enforcement of minor infractions geared toward the “undesirables of the day”.

  • (1) Red light cameras take snapshots not rolling footage (traffic cameras take rolling footage).

    (2) red light cameras only activate when there is something to trigger them

    (3) red light cameras have a narrow frame of vision (they only care about the intersection).

    (4) expectation of privacy or not, giving a single entity (the government) further monopolization of surveillance is not a good thing. Let them still have to convince people of WHY they need the footage and have individuals decide whether or not to help rather than just completely hand over our public lives to a few bureaucrats.

  • Police state. As in North Korea? Come on.

  • I am okay with cameras just don’t tell me that those stupid things save lives. They are there to make money for the contractor and for the municipality. Simple as that. It is easier to tax the bad guys than to clean up the financial bureaucratic mess.

  • @commonsense: while Great Britain is culturally similar to the US, remember there is no codified constitution and no US-style Bill of Rights. English Common Law is based on precedents made by the UK Supreme Court, and by acts of parliament. ” No act of Parliament can be unconstitutional, for the law of the land knows not the word or the idea”.

  • Attacking my patriotism? I love my country and trust that it not only lacks the resources but also the willingness to track ordinary citizens. Anyone who thinks the government is interested in your comings and goings (unless you are in fact a criminal) has ventured beyond delusion into megalomania. Get over yourself.

  • Take it even further: we live in an age where everybody has a camera on their phone and they’re very willing to use it. We have become a society of amateur photojournalists. Everybody is snapping pictures and taking footage of everybody else (that’s not really an exaggeration, either). Where does a concern for privacy fit in to a situation like this? I’m totally opposed to the idea of mass camera surveillance by police (and red light cameras, for that matter) but it seems a little far-fetched to use the argument that we’re concerned about our privacy when so much of our lives are already watched and recorded, and that doesn’t even begin to address the issue of online surveillance by companies as well as the government. Can we hope to have true privacy in the information age? Or will the proliferation of these technologies render this concern largely moot?

  • There are countless cases in states, and video on youtube of police telling people that they cannot film in public. If the city/state/national government reasonably wants to capture video in public places, they need to accept that if they can video tape people in public, then so can the public video tape people.

  • Okay, I’m a little late adding this comment, but I want to point that this “we need more cameras!” type of sentiment is what made TSA possible in the first place. Be careful about what you wish for. :-)

  • Regardless how handy they may have been last week, I still say No Cameras!

  • The only thing that stops a bad guy with a camera is a good guy with a camera. Seriously, cameras in the Hobby Airport parking lot would have stopped several muggings. Still no cameras, better scream ‘fire’.

  • I just LOVE the “Why would you defend the rights of the prosecuted unless (dunh dunh dunh!) you’re a criminal?” argument. And when I say “love,” I mean, “find laughably stupid.”

  • And here’s the deal – if anything, Boston proved that there are generally enough cameras on the street. The police actually had an *excess* of data (and yes, that’s a fine problem to have), and the issue for them was culling the relevant camera information from the dross. That required live policework. More cameras won’t create some sudden panacea. Time and affort are still a major part of law enforcement, and they always will be.

  • Didn’t you people see The Bourne Effect???? WAKE UP PEOPLE (lol)

  • The cameras clearly do not stop crimes that everyone seems to be so worried about, they offer the potential to possibly facillitate a possible arrest and possible conviction. Boston is a great example of how cameras can successfully be used but this example is not the rule. The prescence of all of these cameras is a violation of our indivual privacy and the gradual acceptance is slippery slope that I fear.

  • I think we will truly step into the future police state not through some aggressive overreaching by the government, but as a natural progression, as we become more and more familiar and comfortable with these technologies. It’s scary to think about, but I think it’s going to happen. Most of us already know that various entities are tracking our movements online; it doesn’t stop us from participating in life on the internet. If we’re okay with that, it won’t take much prodding to allow the government to engage in similar practices.

  • @Sihaya,
    The only reason there were enough cameras was due to the fact they were at a marathon where people were snapping a ton of pictures. Had they placed the bombs early in the morning (before people were there and it was dark outside)we would have had zero camera footage (or pixelated security footage from a store at best).

    While I don’t like them for “active monitoring”, the fact is that cameras are very helpful in solving crimes and make the perfect witness. Cameras aren’t tainted w/ emotion, have problems remembering, etc. Just like Google self driving cars are going to be safer than a human driver, cameras are 100% accurate in what they capture (unlike what people THINK they remember about a crime).

  • @Brian,

    The breaking footage actually came from a private security camera. It would have been on with or without a marathon. And if a smaller scale crime had happened at a less crowded event, and the police had to get a warrant to ask to see the footage, it would have amounted to the same thing. At these large, crowded events that pose the most danger, there will always be plenty of data. Lastly, cameras aren’t tainted with emotion, but they have gotten things wrong before, simply by being at the wrong angle, in the wrong place, etc. And our reaction to them is certainly tainted. In Boston, witnesses got online and went through alot of guys with backpacks. That sort of thing won’t stop because of more cameras.

  • Oh, Mel? The govt isn’t interested in your comings and goings? Is that why the NSA is currently building a $2B+ data center in Utah to capture trillions of terabytes of US communication data? To not look at it?
    Don’t be naive. People in power will use it to stay there at any cost, whether they deserve it or not, US government included. Begging to cover all outdoor spaces in cameras like England is begging for extension of their already invasive, unconstitutional, and unreasonable reach.

  • Shiyaya is right, the damning footage of bombers came from Lord and Taylor department store. Once this grainy film was released, individuals checking their personal cameras found the better shots of these bad guys. Also, after the police chase, the Mercedes GPS tracking system didnt work to find the stolen car, it was a cell phone left behind by the temporarily carjacked guy. Finally it was the younger kid that ran over and killed the older brother, Borat, and then drove off. He was found 1 block OUTside of the police door to door perimeter by an alert neighbor smoking in his backyard. The cops had a lot of help and none of it that I can tell came from their cameras. I mean the FBI couldnt even determine who he was in the 3 days of photos circulated after knowing that Russia had already tipped them off.

  • To take this discussion in a different direction, I think we need GREEN light cameras, to fine all the stupid masses that fart and dink around at redlights. Think of all the time, fuel, and money that could be saved if people were actually inclined to quit looking at their cell phone for 20 seconds of their life and focus on driving through a busy intersection, so that the rest of us might do the same!

  • I’m with Spoonman. It’s not that I necessarily object to the constant surveillance – although I do. It’s more that so many things have been criminalized. All of us assuredly break dozens of laws every day. (Do you jog in the street when there is a sidewalk? Do you feed a stray cat? You have just broken the law in Houston.) And now it can be captured on film to be used against you at any time.

  • It’s a matter of passive vs. active monitoring of the cameras–active being the tipping off of a crime being committed by viewing the footage, and passive that of having the report come in and then researching the camera footage for clues. Passive monitoring should be put in place along all streets in high crime areas. Passive surveillance cameras would make it much easier to capture criminals from drug dealers to credit card thieves to bank robbers–so much so that just having the passive cameras in place would likely deter a large portion of crime that today permeates our metropolitan region from city to suburb.

  • The one thing I ask is IF a camera IS put in place, make sure the damn thing has the technology to provide a clear picture. I’m tired of seeing so many damn grainy bank robber photos when the guy is standing right at the counter. My car was stolen in broad daylight with a camera centered right on it, but the resolution was so damn bad you can’t tell if it was a man or a woman, what color shirt he/she was wearing-if at all, or even if the color of their skin was white, black, brown, blue, green, or purple. It’s 2013 for crying out loud! Surveillance camera technology should be better than a webcam from 2002. C’mon man!

  • “only those who were breaking the law had anything to worry about”

    Comments like that make me weep for the future.