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The Tally Ho

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Desperate Housewives?

I may be jumping in ahead of myself, but since they don't believe in comments over at North Arlington All Stars I thought I'd just respond here. I am the liberal wife in question. No, I did not say that *we* should blow up Chechnya. I said that *someone* should blow up Chechnya. We're a little overscheduled as it is. I know that peace in that region is a great idea, and in fact inevitable--either through shrewd political maneuvering, or through the death of everyone remotely involved. It's just that after the stunt in Beslan, I don't much care which one it will be. I'm not on Russia's side. I don't really argue with Chechnya's point of view. But now that I have seen the work of the homicidal looneys on both sides, I wish it would all just go away.

But I didn't come here to rant, did I? First, the local:
The Chicago spycam plan made the national news section of the NYTimes today. By 2006, there will be a "highly advanced system of video surveillance" in place.

Sophisticated new computer programs will immediately alert the police whenever anyone viewed by any of the cameras placed at buildings and other structures considered terrorist targets wanders aimlessly in circles, lingers outside a public building, pulls a car onto the shoulder of a highway, or leaves a package and walks away from it. Images of those people will be highlighted in color at the city's central monitoring station, allowing dispatchers to send
police officers to the scene immediately.
. . .
Mr. Huberman, a 32-year-old former police officer who is also what one aide called "a techno geek," said this new system "should produce a significant decrease in crime, and from a homeland security standpoint it should be able to make our city safer." When the system is in place, Mr. Huberman said, video images will be instantly available to dispatchers at the city's 911 emergency center, which receives about 18,000 calls each day. Dispatchers will be able to tilt or zoom the cameras, some of which magnify images up to 400 times, in order to watch suspicious people and follow them from one camera's range to another's.

Our City-in-a-Garden is not only observing our actions now, but recording them for posterity or future litigation. I don't see how this will be tremendously useful in preventing terrorist attacks, since seeing a suicide bomber's face doesn't matter if he's dead by the time you hit the scene. I have some grave doubts about how effective this software would be against someone who "wanders aimlessly in circles" around a public area; I do so all the time downtown, and I live here. Imagine how these fancy programs will react to all the tourists flocking around Millenium Park, or our flamingo, or the Water Tower. I'll never be able to leave a BookCrossing book in the wild again, but this may be a puny argument from the Homeland Security Standpoint.

Please keep in mind that the cameras are not the new thing. There are about 2,000 within the city at the present time; they make their presence known in some of the more savory areas of the city with big flashing blue police lights atop utility poles. The new plan would only add another 250 or so cameras, but I expect them to cause more of a public outcry because if they are placed near "terrorist targets" there's a higher probability that the North Siders will notice.

"The value we gain in public safety far outweighs any perception by the community that this is Big Brother who's watching," Mr. Huberman said. "The feedback we're getting is that people welcome this. It makes them feel safer."

I don't feel safer, I just feel more watched.

Now for the cosmic: Fafblog on God vs. Satan. Glad we cleared that up.


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