Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

I would never make it in the ACLU...

...and Rich Lowry of National Review spells out why in today's National Review column about surveillance cameras.

I could never understand the arguments about invasion of privacy, when the camera was in a public place. Maybe it's my memories from journalism school, where I learned I could take a picture of anyone in a public place without their permission — whether it was appropriate was another question, but it was legal.

My take, in general, is this: if you're following the law you have nothing to worry about. That applies not only to surveillance cameras, but also to photo radar, random drug testing and bag searches. The only people who need worry about these things are those who are vandalizing, speeding, using illegal drugs, or possessing banned (say, from ballparks) or stolen (e.g. shoplifted) items.

That's why places that have installed cameras see a decrease in vandalism and drug dealing. That's why places that use photo radar see a decrease in the overall speed limit. That's why stores with bag checks (and cameras, in some cases) see a decrease in theft.

Lowry quoted Heather Mac Donald from last week's City Journal, noting a 9-month-old Los Angeles Times story about the installation of video cameras in a crime-infested LA park. The story said police watched “in amazement as crime plummeted, gangs, drug dealers and pimps disappeared, and families with children began returning to the 40-acre expanse in one of the city’s poorest areas."

"In fact," Mac Donald wrote, "the only people whom public cameras inhibit are criminals; they liberate the law-abiding public."

Yes, Big Brother is watching. If you're willing to follow the rules set down by a civilized society, his gaze will move on to other, more desirable targets. If not, it's your own damn fault.


  • At 7/31/2005 11:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Putting aside most of your article (as I don't have the time or the energy to research it all now), I must point out something:

    ...places that use photo radar see a decrease in the overall speed limit.

    I think you meant decrease in SPEEDING, not the speed limit. But I'd like to point out that speeding cameras can be dangerous, and usually, in fact are.

    At least according to a Virginia Transportation Research Council study, which found that, "Despite a distinct sympathy in favor of camera enforcement, the researchers found a "definite" increase in rear-end accidents and only a "possible" decrease in angle accidents. Most importantly, the net effect was that more injuries happened after cameras are installed. Camera proponents explain this away by asserting angle accidents are more serious, but this claim has not been scientifically studied according to this report. The rear end collisions caused by the cameras still produce injuries -- the original promise of camera proponents was that they would reduce accidents and injuries, not rearrange them."


    Other evidence backs this up, such as a revelation that "road deaths have risen dramatically" in areas where speed cameras are in place:

    "Hertfordshire saw a 24 per cent rise in speed camera numbers between 2003 and 2004. In the same period, road fatalities rose by 34 per cent.


    "...in North Wales, where "Gatso fan Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom has a league table for traffic cops", 56,247 speeding tickets were issued although this had little effect on safety, with an 18 per cent increase in road deaths.

    "The reason? Simple, says safety expert Paul Smith: 'Crashes are avoided by making a safe plan based on what you see. Cameras move attention away from hazards to speedometers.'"

    Also, I'd like to take issue with you saying, "My take, in general, is this: if you're following the law you have nothing to worry about."

    All well and good. So how far does this extend to, mmm? What liberty would you be willing to give up, even though you aren't doing anything?

    Would you be okay with your local government requiring a random drug test from everyone in the city every few months? They'd pay for it out of tax dollars, of course, but you'd still have to pee in a cup.

    You'll have nothing to worry about, though, cause you're following the law, so this is just something to make life better...right?

    There are laws floating around that would require automatic breathalyzers in all cars. While these are installed in the cars of some repeatedly convicted drunk drivers (they are required to blow before start-up, and every ten minutes afterwards while the car is in operation), some want them in all cars.

    You'd be okay with that, right? I mean, you're not driving drunk, so there's no problem there.

    It's not a long thread between "for the common good" and "for your own good" and "shut up and do what we say," is it?

  • At 8/01/2005 10:23 AM, Blogger Ken said…

    Yes, you're right — I meant to say a decrease in "speeding."

    I think I'll respond to the rest in a post.


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