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Friday, November 21, 2008

Spying on the people in downtown Cleveland

There's a rather short news report from the Associated Press making the rounds in all of the area's news media. So far, four cameras are now up and there will be nine more coming on soon. According to Cleveland's Public Safety Director Martin Flask:

The cameras have blue strobe lights attached to them so people can see them and feel safe.
Damn, if blue lights are all we need to feel safe I guess we no longer have anything to worry about. We can finally walk around Public Square safely, knowing that these flashing lights will be there to protect us. Maybe they could also quit sending cops to patrol the area as well... assuming they actually did useful crime fighting work to begin with.

Somebody unaware of the huge privacy issues associated with government surveillance might not understand what the big deal is. To see why we people might be concerned about privacy, this would be a decent starting point. There is further discussion about government related privacy issues in chapter 5 of David D. Friedman's latest book "Future Imperfect." If you're still in doubt, read George Orwell's 1984.

Furthermore, from Wikipedia,
There is little evidence that CCTV deters crime.[8] According to a Liberal Democrat analysis, in London "Police are no more likely to catch offenders in areas with hundreds of cameras than in those with hardly any." [9] A 2008 Report by UK Police Chiefs concluded that only 3% of crimes were solved by CCTV. [10]

As usual, the state throws away our money and resources on solutions that don't work while criminals literally get away with hurting real people. At this point, I am certain that public officials really don't care whether the measures they take are effective. They have to give people the idea that they are "doing something" about these problems or they will get thrown out of office. Meanwhile, stuff that would actually work remains untouched.

Property owners in the area might as well be allowed to keep their own money and use it to take private security measures on their own. People continue to claim that we must have a government in order to fight crime. Yet it is increasingly known that their actions do next to nothing to improve the situation. Inner cities continue to be a haven for gangsters, while the government spends more money on areas that don't need as much protection.

I wouldn't claim that getting the state out of the crime prevention business would magically make everyone safe. Of course there would still be criminals. The question is whether the government does a decent job, or whether private individuals and companies could do it better. This is just more evidence of the latter.

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