POLICE SURVEILLANCE: GOOD OR BAD?
A recent article talks (brags) about how the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office used its surveillance cameras to catch a serial stick-up artist following a string of convenience store robberies. The cameras and license plate readers were bought for the county using federal grant money. By October 1st 10 more cameras and 6 more tag readers are scheduled to be installed. Here’s the kicker, from an interview with a Sheriff’s Department employee:
Most of the new cameras will be on private property, such as at apartment complexes, and the property owners gave permission for the installations, she said.
“Don’t worry, citizens! Your landlords have given us permission to monitor your activities!” Oh, I should mention this bit:
[T]he sheriff’s office has allayed any “Big Brother” concerns by the fact that the cameras are overt. They have the sheriff’s logo on them, and blue flashing lights.
Add in the fact that these cameras will be deployed to “high crime” (read: poor) areas, and you get this: landlords let the police install cameras to keep tabs on their tenants, because the police just go ahead and assume that the people living there should be monitored because it’s a “high-crime” area.
Yes – surveillance cameras can do good things like catch people who are committing crimes. But they can do very bad things too. They let police and governments closely watch our daily lives. We live in a society where even minor infractions, like riding a bicycle the wrong way, can result in court fines and jail time. Do we really want to give the police the go-ahead for constant surveillance?
We have criminal codes that grow, year by year, like a cancer. We’ve created new criminal laws year after year, so much so that there is even a brilliant twitter account dedicated to tweeting out “a crime a day.” Today’s federal crime: