Loss of Privacy

Keeping you informed on recent losses to privacy and civil rights worldwide.

Browsing Posts in CCTV

The city of London currently has more than 10,000 CCTV cameras, yet they have done little to curb crime. Most can’t even solve a crime after it has occurred, leading many to believe they are completely useless and a huge waste of money.

A comparison of the number of cameras in each London borough with the proportion of crimes solved there found that police are no more likely to catch offenders in areas with hundreds of cameras than in those with hardly any.

In fact, four out of five of the boroughs with the most cameras have a record of solving crime that is below average.

“We have estimated that CCTV cameras have cost the taxpayer in the region of £200million in the last 10 years but it’s not entirely clear if some of that money would not have been better spent on police officers.

Thank you! I have been saying this for years. There is no better deterrent to crime than to have a physical body present. That £200 million could have been better spent on human beings who can actually interact with citizens in helping to prevent crime and solve crimes after the fact.

Another suggestion was to spend some of that money on better street lighting, which has also shown to lower crime rates. Like cockroaches, criminals scatter in the light. Too bad we can’t get politicians to do the same.

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New York City is stepping up their surveillance of downtown, including license plate readers and 3,000 public and private cameras. The bad news is that these devices are being sold to the public as a way to prevent terrorism, yet there’s very little evidence that they’re effective in such situations.

Who thinks that this type of big brother activity is really a good idea? Have Americans become such pansies that they’re afraid of their own shadows now? Thank God that terrorists are too stupid to have figured out how to copy, fake, or steal plates. I’m pretty happy they aren’t smart enough to use decoys in cars or rent cars that won’t be flagged as suspicious either. It’s even better that they don’t know how to take a train or bus into the city to wreck havoc.

New York City is also using the recent attacks in London as an example of how such systems work. Except they don’t. The ring of cameras around London did nothing to prevent the car bombers. If you can actually remember more than ten seconds ago, it was the ambulance drivers who noticed something was wrong. If two jackasses hadn’t gotten into a fight, a call to the ambulance would not have been necessary. No ambulance drivers means that the original plan could have very well worked. It was only after the incident occurred that British police tracked others through the CCTV cameras.

These same cameras were also supposed to be able to red flag illegal plates and stolen cars. Worked great didn’t it?

9/11 could never have been prevented with such security. However, the hijackers were quickly discovered without anyone invading my privacy. I’ve already had to suffer eliminations of my privacy, such as warrantless searches and wiretaps. Now, I’m assumed a criminal and my license plate will be logged into a database for no good reason.

The use of cameras and license plate readers will further affect how people act. If you know you’re being watched, you’re going to react differently. You might not join in that peace march for fear of repercussions from the government. You ‘ll stop discussing anything controversial in public. You will be forced to conform to what the government wants, merely to keep your sanity and to stay out of prison for a lack of siding with current policy.

While it is a nice idea to make policework a little bit easier for the police, taking shortcuts for work that should be performed live and in person is only going to be abused and misused. Again, this won’t make anyone safe. It’s just there to reassure the public that law enforcement might actually be doing something.

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The story of the prostitute killings in Ipswich, England is horrible. I think everyone would agree that, even if you are a prostitute, you don’t deserve to die in such a terrible manner. No one deserves to die like that and it is good that the police have arrested a suspect. However, the story also brings about a broader story that I have touched on several times before. The United Kingdom, and a few places in the USA, have touted that CCTV cameras help to prevent crime, despite evidence to the contrary.

Many authorities claim that CCTV cameras will help prevent and reduce crimes but the most they have done in this crime is release footage of one of the prostitutes shortly before she was murdered. Even though the United Kingdom is the one of the most watched societies in the world, they could do little to help this woman.

Now, this is not a dig at the police and saying they can’t do their jobs. What it is, is a criticism of the lackadaisical approach far too many people have towards CCTV. It gives the false sense of protection, when, instead, you should continue to have your guard up. It makes people feel safe when they are not.

This woman had a very dangerous job. You never know what kind of whack job your next john is going to be. The story is reminiscent of the Whitechapel murders and Jack the Ripper, as well as the Yorkshire Ripper. Five women are dead and the police can only ask for people to look closely at the images to help them solve the crime.

Prostitution in Britain is legal but there are laws that make providing sex for money difficult. For example, a woman can sell sex in an apartment, but advertising sexual services, streetwalking, brothels and kerb crawling are all illegal.

Many prostitutes are ignoring police warnings to stay at home and have declined the financial help offered to them. This is likely to continue, especially now that a suspect is in custody. Others in England have begun calling for better protection for prostitutes, legal brothels or both. The police have been deluged with more than 9,000 calls with information and over 10,000 hours of CCTV footage. Maybe, one of the killings was caught on tape. It’s unlikely though.

What will happen instead is that the police will eventually find the killer and point to the tip lines and the CCTV footage as the reason they found the killer. CCTV will be praised for its massive retention of video data and everyone will exclaim how great it is to live in a society where CCTV can save the day. However, law enforcement will claim that, these crimes could have been prevented if they had just had some more cameras in place. They surely would have seen the killer committing his act and would have prevented him from going on a crime spree. Then, everyone will return to their normal lives, waiting for the government to increase taxes so that they can be safer and be spied upon even more.

Other countries, most notably the USA, will use this as an example to shove CCTV down the throats of ignorant Americans and still claim that North Korea and China are evil because they spy on their citizens whereas the US government is merely helping to prevent terrorism and crime. Everyone will smile and give up more of their hard earned money because the government has done a good job of protecting them, while the rest of us cringe and continue to look for a place we can live free from the prying eyes of government.

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Chicago’s Mayor Richard M. Daley wants a surveillance camera on every street by 2016. He claims that his city’s technology is better than that of London and Chicago and will be able to prevent more crimes, but offers no proof. However, there is overwhelming evidence that surveillance cameras do little to deter crime.

A 2005 report from the United Kingdom states that surveillance cameras do little to prevent crime. A study funded by the British Home Office reported that the only place surveillance cameras deterred crime was in parking lots.

London is littered with video cameras. At any given moment, you are on at least one video camera when walking around town, with the average British citizen on 300 cameras per day. Yet, crime still occurs in London. Surveillance cameras have not made citizens feel any safer, nor has it succeeded in preventing crime. Many people today feel that the British government is relying on the cameras as the magic answer to crime even though similar past studies confirm the latest findings.

Jill Dando wasn’t any safer, despite being on camera. No one felt safe on July 7th in London. Despite their prevalence, these cameras can only help hunt for a criminal after the crime has been committed because they are passive devices that are unable to help you while you are being raped, mugged, or murdered.

There is also the slippery slope that, while the cameras today will be pointing on the street, in the future there will be a great temptation to turn those cameras inward to see what is happening inside people’s homes. It is human nature to be curious. Even though you have a reasonable expectation of privacy inside your home, how long will it be before the people monitoring the cameras are tempted to see what you are doing inside your home?

Instead of spending millions on cameras, the money should be invested in the police force. Beat cops walking the streets prevents crime. Time and again the physical presence of law enforcement helps to prevent crime.

Mrs. Smith is more likely to tell a police officer of the crime she witnessed if she sees the police walking her neighborhood every day. She will identify Billy as the man who beat Jenny and stole her purse. On the other hand, if there is a camera, Mrs. Smith will remain silent. Why get involved when the police can go back through the video tapes and try to figure it out for themselves? After all, Billy has now disguised himself, covering his face and hands while he commits crime. If Billy does a good job, you won’t even be able to tell if he’s a man or woman or what race he is. So, all you’re left with is a video of someone dressed in black beating Jenny and stealing her purse. Worse, cameras have blind spots. Criminals will take advantage of that. Mrs. Smith, however, will move around to see what’s happening. With the camera, you have eliminated most witnesses.

A police officer who walks the beat knows the people, good and bad, and actually serves the public good. Get the police out of their and them walk a beat. That will deter crime. However, with law enforcement’s insistence that we should push for more and more cameras, the end decision is most likely to be decided in the courts, after someone’s right to privacy has already been violated. Beat cops and community involvement remain the best way to deter crime. Hopefully, Mayor Daley will see that before he wastes millions of taxpayers dollars on crime prevention that doesn’t work.

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Many people today are starting to warm up to the fact that CCT cameras are going to be part of our lives in the near future. Since 9/11, Americans have given in to the fear that there are terrorists everywhere and no one is safe, not even for a short walk to the corner store for a gallon of milk. The United Kingdom already has CCT cameras in widespread use and Europe is accustomed to the police cameras on highways in their efforts to prevent speeding. Still, even overseas, people are leery of the ever more intrusive use of CCT cameras but, here in America, we are rolling over and accepting the slow implementation of these devices.

For some, it’s a novelty to look on the Internet and see highway and city cams of various parts of the world. For others, it’s an intrusion into their privacy. No matter which side you rest on, one thing has to be made clear. Your rights shouldn’t be eliminated simply to make the task of ticketing those who break the law easier for the police and local government.

In Davenport, Iowa, Thomas Seymour challenged the city’s use of traffic cameras as a violation of due process and an abdication of police powers. Under city guidelines, the ticket is issued to the owner of the car, which Seymour argued placed the burden on the car owner to prove that he/she was not driving at the time of the incident. The ACLU joined him in his fight, questioning whether the ordinance was even legal to create. Seymour’s attorney argued that, because the new ordinance placed the tickets under a civil violation instead of a misdemeanor, like traditional traffic tickets, the new tickets deprive an individual of their constitutional rights under state and federal laws.

Mr. Seymour lost his case and was forced to pay his fines, mainly due to the judge’s ruling that, even though he received the ticket, the police still had to prove that Mr. Seymour was the one driving the car. Despite the loss in this case, which is under appeal, it only proves more government waste. The cameras are leased with money collected from ticket fines but that does not take into account how much court time, fees and man hours are wasted due to the fact that, if the owners prove they weren’t in the car, there is no fine. No money collected. No fees to upkeep the cameras.

In Minnesota, on the other hand, the State Court of Appeals upheld the Hennepin County District Court’s decision that the photocop program was a violation of state law. Again, in this case, the defendant, Daniel Kuhlman, argued that, as the vehicle owner, his right to due process was violated. The main difference in this case is that, unlike Iowa, Minnesota’s state constitution prevents such a program because it would prevent the regulation of traffic unilaterally throughout the state.

Ohio had a similar reaction to the case in Minnesota. There are many reasons to protest the use of traffic cameras and several citizens have already protested against their use. These machines are known to be error prone, as evidenced in Los Angeles when a defective camera sited more than 3,000 red light violations that never occured.

The state of Maryland struck down a law implementing the use of these machines in 2003. There were concerns over the massive upgrades to the judicial system that would be needed, including new judges, staff, and courtrooms, as well as a multi-million dollar upgrade to the current system to handle all the new cases that would have suddenly appeared. The governor, like the cases in Minnesota and Ohio, feared due process violations.

After a report was released in Washington, DC that their city surveillance cameras did little to deter crime, residents have mixed feelings on the cameras. While they feel that the cameras are safeguarding the community, they also say that it is infringing on their privacy. What they don’t realize is that the cameras are doing little to keep them safe, as evidenced by the admission from the police department.

In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, an ordinance has been proposed to place surveillance cameras in all bars in the city. However, the law could also be rewritten so that they are only placed in large establishments and places where there are problems, leaving many restaurants and small taverns off the list. Many establishment owners site concerns over the costs of implementation, which can run from $1200-$12,000. The police cite that they can use the cameras to settle disputes about what occurred and whether an establishment can retain or renew their liquor license.

Mayor Tom Barrett supports the ordinance, stating that bars that had extra scrutiny by the police led to a drop in shootings. However, Prentice McKinney, who represents the Milwaukee Metropolitan Entertainment Association, stated that he has cameras in his own bar and, even after telling his unruly customers that they are recorded, they continue with their disorderly behavior. He is adamant that the cameras do little or nothing to prevent crimes, though they may help with investigations later.

It has been proved many times before that the physical presence of law enforcement officers is what deters crime. Cameras, which are inanimate, cannot stop crimes before they happen. To think that the cameras will prevent crimes is shortsighted and is merely an easy way out to give the appearance that the police are providing security when, in reality, they are only providing a means to possibly see what happened in the past, leaving the present insecure.

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