More Surveillance = More Security?

LA Voice has the details on the new cameras that will be up all over Hollywood. This was talked about a little bit before but not much discussion really came of it. Basically there are new APD monitored surveillance cameras being put up all around Hollywood. 60 of them to be exact. So there’s a bit I’d like to discuss now that these are actually being installed. If that’s cool.

Last October an LAPD spokesperson said: “people are ready to feel more secure in their communities. I think they are willing to give up a little bit … for more security.”

From last weeks press release: “Cameras have already met with great success in Los Angeles,” said Councilmember Eric Garcetti. “This neighborhood has fought its way back to become L.A’s number one place to live, work and visit. These cameras will give Hollywood added security and make residents and visitors feel safer…”

There’s other obvious elements to this that need to be discussed but I want to talk about this “feeling safer” bit. OK, so some people might feel safer. But are they? Putting up tons of cameras all over feels, to me at least, like one of those things that is being done to make people think they are safer while not actually doing anything. Like taking away nail clippers on Airlines, half of America was able to relax even though that didn’t change anything. Or like driving an SUV even though statistics show you are more likely to flip it or kill people in another car during an accident than if you were driving a normal sized car.

First of all, who is going to sit through all of this footage? And are they doing it real time? Because quite frankly I can’t see the value in someone watching this stuff 2 weeks later. They’d see it and think “yep, that guy sure is getting mugged” and that would be that. So for it to actually make you safer someone would need to be watching it real time and be able to take action if something came up. So who is going to do that? Since it’s the LAPD behind this, would it be safe to assume officers are watching them? If so, isn’t one of the MAJOR complaints that there aren’t enough cops on the streets? So now we’re pulling them off the streets and putting them behind video monitors so they can see what’s going on on the streets?

I don’t feel any safer. Do you?

I’ll tell you what though, I’d feel a lot safer if the cash used to buy these cameras was spent to hire more cops to be on the streets, and if the bad guys weren’t the only people walking around with guns.

4 Replies to “More Surveillance = More Security?”

  1. All good points Sean and I gotta say…60 cameras ain’t gonna stop crime. It just makes me feel like I’m living in a police state….that really isn’t policed.

  2. Well said. While I have no problem with surveillance cameras in private locations, such as retail stores, I have a problem with cameras in public locations. Granted, if you are in a public place you really have no expectation of privacy – it’s not like Joe Schmoe on the street doesn’t have access to video cameras – but why can’t we just have more cops on the street instead of people sitting in a room reviewing footage? Seems kind of counterintuitive to me.

  3. I think the police are using the same logic legislators use when they talk up the death penalty. “Criminals will be deterred from heinous crime if they know they’ll be killed for it.” Similarly here, the logic is that criminals will be deterred from muggings, etc., with the knowlege that their likenesses are being captured on tape for later hunting and prosecution. (Evening newscasts live for that footage!) But yeah, noboby’s watching these cameras in realtime, so it’s not gonna help the poor sucker getting his head caved in. Crime will happen regardless. And I agree, the money would be better spent with cops on the beat, ideally able to respond in realtime to cries or reports for help.

    (As a sidebar: at least to me, a continuous video compilation of assaults and the like just has a slight fetishistic whiff to it. You know the police techs behind this are probably getting some sick personal entertainment from some of the footage. “Dude, play that gay bashing one again!” Why can I imagine the possibility of some undergroud snuff-like tapes starting to circulate the more these cameras become ubiquitous? Either that, or I’m just a paranoid sick f$#@ ;)

  4. While concerns about government surveilance are valid, it’s not correct to say that this would have no impact on crime. The company I work for has lots of video cameras. They feed a hard drive system which allows video to be reviewed after “interesting” events. Rarely does someone sit there watching in real time. This has allowed us to solve some crimes, since we got nice images of the perps entering the building. And it’s obvious that jailing criminals has a salutory effect on crime.

    It’s also not correct to think that more patrols would mean stopping more crimes in progress. The real deterrent is in the threat of getting caught and, even better, being locked up. That’s going to be roughly the same for cameras as for patrol cars. And cameras are a known force multiplier. So saying that cameras won’t help the guy getting mugged misses the point.

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