Re: law enforcement for profit

From: Charlie (
Date: Fri May 05 2000 - 02:39:25 MDT

On Fri, May 05, 2000 at 02:19:19AM -0400, Ross A. Finlayson wrote:
> Cameras wouldn't reduce accidents. Are they going to be some kind of huge
> inflatable airbag cameras?
One word: deterrence.

Here in the UK, we're a _lot_ further down the cameras-everywhere route
than you guys are in the USA.

About the one unambiguously popular use of cameras in public is at red
lights at traffic intersections. The cameras currently used use film
(expensive) and doppler radar (ditto); basically they're synched to the
lights, and if a metal object goes through the lights while they're red
it gets photographed and a police officer then goes through the film
reel and works out what to do.

Because these camera/radar units are expensive, they tend to get
positioned only at accident black spots -- where people are/have been
killed by idiots running lights, or where a fast stretch of road is
suddenly terminated by traffic lights. Usually there's a camera box there,
but more often than not it's empty; typically there'll be about one live
camera for every five to ten enclosures.

The headache is that they also use the same camera equipment to stop
speeding; typically tuned to about 10% above the speed limit (so that
any hits are unambiguous). The cameras are often deployed on wide,
straight roads in urban areas where there's a low speed limit (for
example, because there are schools/residencies nearby), but they also
crop up on motorways and other main roads where they're cheaper to deploy
than police officers in a pursuit car. The speed cameras are markedly less
popular/tolerated than the red-light cams ...

And the real headache comes when you consider the new generation cameras
that are being built. If there's one thing the UK leads the world in
right now, it's intrusive spying camera technology. The government is
shelling out lots of money for video cameras with built-in DSPs that
can do enough rudimentary image analysis to OCR a car number plate at
fifty to a hundred metres. The ostensible reason is that this will negate
the need for costly rolls of film and make the system more efficient; but
some of us are rather worried about the idea of these cameras being set to
trigger when any vehicle goes past at any speed, and log the number plate
and time -- can you spell "total mobility surveillance"?

Yours from the land of five million cameras,

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