Is the security camera the panacea of the 21st century?
One could be forgiven for thinking so, given the accolades they win from everyone from terrorism experts to city officials.
Scottsdale puts so much stock in the techno-baubles that it wants to cover six miles of the Loop 101 with 24-hour surveillance.
But if our experiences with terrorism have taught us anything it is that the best security cameras seem to accomplish is provide terrifying footage of missed opportunities to nab the bad guys. Remember the haunting image of Mohamed Atta at Logan Intl.? No doubt you have seen pictures of the seemingly-innocuous hikers boarding the London Tube. These images do nothing to bring back the dead, or prevent future attacks.
The same can be said for cameras on the 101. A camera might help in dispatching police to the scene of an accident, but a patrol car in the break-down lane would be far more effective in actually preventing the crash. Speeders and HOV-lane scofflaws aren’t likely to respond to a tiny camera perched above the 5:00 p.m. mêlée and a ticket that comes weeks later. Perhaps a sign reminding motorists “You are being watched” would make the cameras more effective.
But that still leaves the underlying question untouched: Do you want to be watched? “Sure,” many say, in this age of terrorism. “I have nothing to hide.” But if we get nothing more than evening-news footage of the bad guys when it is already too late to act, why waste our time and money to live in an ineffective police-state? If we want to drop the Iron Curtain on America, let’s do it – these Iron Mini-Blinds just don’t go with the drapes.
As the Cato Institute’s Melanie Scarborough puts it, “If a suicide bomber walks intothe rotunda of the Jefferson Memorial with explosives strapped to his body, a police officer watching at a remote site can do nothing to prevent disaster." Ditto for that jackass doing 90 mph in the right lane.