Jul 142005

As you may know, the British invested a lot to cover a huge part of London with a closed circuit television system for "identifying terrorists." Much is being made right now about the fact that officers have uncovered a shot of one of the terrorists from this system. I expect to see the U.S. Government and major U.S. cities now clamoring to install such systems, and they’ll point to this as the grand example for why we need it.

But lets step back into reality world for just a minute. What did this really accomplish. The terrorists were not circumvented by the system, and it wasn’t even the camera shot that led officials to the terrorists, they merely found a shot of one of them after establishing who the terrorists were using other conventional investigative techniques. I don’t see that there was any real benefit derived from the deployment of this technology.

Here in Tampa, there was a "facial recognition" system being used in Ybor City (a party spot in town) by Tampa Police. After about three years, and who knows how many millions of dollars, it was discontinued. It had never identified a single criminal. St. Petersburg police had used a patrol car based system on a three million dollar trial. The system helped them catch two people wanted for prostitution, and one person for petty theft…so let’s see the math here…that’s two hookers and a small time thief caught for the mere price of $1m each. Pretty pricey hookers if you ask me.

While those in the current administration who hate the encumbrances of free society and Constitutions and other troubling crap like that, they’ll tout this London episode as the perfect example of why we should deploy these CCTV systems. The police in London spent hundreds of man-hours scanning the tapes, all to be able to point to a shot of one dead terrorist just before he blew himself, and the London tube station. I believe this episode supports just the opposite. I think it has proved, once again, these systems give a false sense of security, and bring no real value to crime prevention.

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