Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Surveillance Nation

Wired's article by David Downs on new police cruiser software that automatically runs license plates is mildly interesting.

But what I found far more enlightening were some statistics in the article on the growth of police surveillance in France and England.
In France, 1,000 mobile and stationary plate-reading cameras have doubled speeding ticket revenue and halved speeding-related deaths in just two years. In the UK, 200 cameras policing London's Downtown Congestion Charge Zone generated 13,000 arrests in one year. British law enforcement loves the technology so much that the government has plans for a $43 million campaign to install enough cameras to monitor every motorist on the country's highways, major roads, and bigger intersections, digitally reading some 35 million plates per day. This could catch not just every stolen car but nearly every moving violation as it occurs.|Wired|
But the Europeans don't have the same legacy of individualism and political resistance to tyranny that we have in this country. Surely that couldn't happen in the US of A...
The idea of cameras monitoring every highway, boulevard, and alley might strike some Americans as Orwellian. But even the American Civil Liberties Union acknowledges that the public has no right to license plate privacy on public streets. After all, cops can enter plate numbers by hand, so why not by camera? "There's absolutely no bar on collecting plates in public," says Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU's technology and liberty program. "There haven't been any legal challenges, because it's not illegal." |Wired|


Mun Mun said...

L.A. Police Chief Bill Bratton was interviewed the other day on KPCC. I was glad to hear him say we could never have a camera at every city intersection to catch people running red lights because traffic in the city would come to a complete hault. Apparently the police turns a blind eye to people turning left after the light changes to red for the first 3 cars turning left. I had always wondered if I'd get a moving violation if I turned left on red in front of a cop. I guess it's okay to do.

Safety Neal said...

My criminal clients used to get really upset about unequal enforcement of the law, but that's reality. The cops cannot enforce the rules the same way all the time.

People in LA drive like mad, including the cops, so the standards are very different. The cops are as likely to cite you for impeding traffic as speeding there.

But most places its different. My friend David lives in LA but was home visiting family in Austin.

20 minutes into his visit he was waiting to turn left, the light turned yellow so he pulled into the intersection and was ticketed by a cop for that.

LA rules are very different. I guess you were raised there, but I don't see how anyone tolerates that madhouse.

Mun Mun said...

I'll remember that if I ever go to Austin. Come and get me, coppers!

Hey, I just realized I spelled "halt" wrong in my previous post, but I don't know how to edit it. There exists a word "hault" according to dictionary.com that is related to "haughty." Prideful traffic is a big problem in L.A. apparently.