D.C. Hood Gets Checkpoints and Cameras!

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Radley Balko and others took D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty over their knees when the latter initiated checkpoints in the violent neighboorhood of Trinidad (while simultaneously diving at any and every loophole that would have allowed him to ignore the ruling in DC v. Heller), but it seems the criticism fell on deaf ears: Fenty and the MPD are blazing ahead with a plan to install 30 police cameras in Trinidad, using funding from Target and Sprint Nextel, and despite the objections of At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson. The best part of the whole ordeal? Mendelson's instistence that "[n]o crimes are solved [using police cameras] that couldn't have been solved otherwise—that's generally the rap."

It's kind of refreshing to hear a D.C. politician speak out against potential abuses of police powers—even if only on the basis of utility.

Brian Taylor wrote a balanced reason piece on police cameras in 1997 (back before the cams were commonplace). And in case you missed it, Brian Doherty has the 411 on D.C.'s latest attempt at circumventing the Second Amendment.

NEXT: Robert Reich Stands Tall for the Separation of Powers

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  1. Would you take that councilman’s word as gospel if he said handgun bans reduce crime, Rad? Let’s not be cafeteria critical thinkers.

  2. The last time I was in the D.C. metro area I spotted numerous cars with a sticker applied across the top of the license plates that read “Taxation without Representation”. Great stuff. You folks ought to draw up a declaration of independence and cast off the stupid fucks that oppress you.

  3. cunnivore | December 19, 2008, 6:12pm | #
    Would you take that councilman’s word as gospel if he said handgun bans reduce crime, Rad? Let’s not be cafeteria critical thinkers.

    Errm, when the councilman has said something that is already well known do you really have to spell it out as “critical thinking” or can you just nod your head?

  4. Kwix, really? Why does basically any business that handles money or other valuables have security cameras then?

  5. It’s kind of refreshing to hear a D.C. politician speak out
    against potential abuses of police powers

    Be sure to let us know, Mr. Riggs, when you have an actual abuse of police power relating to these surveillance cameras. And if any criminals are brought to justice with evidence from them.
    Fair enough?

  6. Cunnivore,
    You clearly didn’t read the articles that Mr. Riggs nor I linked to. We are specifically talking about cameras, randomly* placed and monitored by the police.

    We are not talking about the Loss Prevention dude at WalMart looking for shoplifters, or the 7-11 or jewelry store camera to capture a hold-up artist. The former places cameras where they know specific crimes will occur and pay someone to attempt to prevent them (shoplifting). The latter places cameras in a likely, yet immobile, crime spot to identify the criminal post hoc (robbery). A public camera system placed on the street is neither. It is an immobile system where criminals are free to move.

    To achieve the sort of coverage you are claiming to be effective you’d need a hell of a lot more cameras** in the Trinidad neighborhood PLUS the manpower to watch them day and night or at least to review them after the crime has already been committed. As it is right now, the DC police are still debating on how to fund the monitoring.

    All one has to do is look to London to see the ineffectiveness of thousands of cameras monitored by lackadaisical public servants for any sort of crime. Specifically from the article I linked:

    Often [the police] do not want to find CCTV images “because it’s hard work”. Sometimes the police did not bother inquiring beyond local councils to find out whether CCTV cameras monitored a particular street incident.

    Do you really think the DC metro cops will fair any better?

    * I understand that the camera placement isn’t actually “random”, but given that the cameras can’t move (unlike beat cops) and criminals can both move and remember where the cameras are, well, the placement might as well be random because the effect will be the same.

    ** By “a hell of a lot”, may I suggest you walk into your local bank, 7-11, jewelery store or WalMart and count the number of security cameras you see. Then ask the manager for the square footage of the store. For comparison, the Trinidad Neighborhood is approx 3000ft square, or 9,000,000 sqft.

  7. Why the fuck is this funded by Target and Sprint? Where are the details on this?

  8. Ihre Papier bitte?

  9. hey, if thats what it takes, gotta do what ya gotta do!

    jess
    http://www.privacy-tools.at.tc

  10. “[n]o crimes are solved [using police cameras] that couldn’t have been solved otherwise”

    Laugh out loud. Yeah, I guess it’s true. Maybe we can just count on everyone confessing to their crimes or that the type of citizens who vote for convicted crackheads to be mayor will actually witness against their brothers and mothers.

    Snort.

  11. While police surveillance cameras can and will be abused (here in AZ speed cameras are used to raise revenues), they are inevitable and they are useful. Rather than rail against them, liberty lovers should recognize the benefits as well as the negatives and work to reduce abuse.

    The inevitability is due not only to changes in society and technology, but the inevitable reactions to inevitable acts of terror.

  12. Why the fuck is this funded by Target and Sprint?

    Yeah that line almost cries out for a bit of explanation — maybe I should RTFA. Without RTFA I’m going to make a wild-ass-guess and surmise that wanting to do business in the District, they are well aware that when the city offers you a chance to help fund a law enforcement project it is an offer you can’t refuse.

  13. “they are inevitable and they are useful. Rather than rail against them, liberty lovers should recognize the benefits…” John Moore

    Care to share what those benefits might be?

  14. This is what happens when you put an obsessive compulsive closeted homosexual in office.

  15. it may be bad policy to have (more) police cameras. fwiw, most of the cameras we are surveilled by day to day are owned by little brother (businesses) not govt. in fact, businesses know FAR more about you than the govt. does. trust me. i’ve worked in govt. the average intelius user will know WAY more about you than any 50 govt. officials put together.

    regardless, cameras in public places used by govt are entirely constitutional. that is completely tangential to whether it’s good policy … see plain view doctrine, open view doctrine, etc.

    cameras also have the added benefit (just like tape recorders used by both citizens and cops) of helping ferret out falsely accused (whether by cops or citizens), wrongly accused, etc.

    there are many innocent people in prison who would have LOVED to have the crime they were accused of on video, or a public road they were driving on video’d (to provide an alibi) etc.

    iow, it works to protect the innocent as well as convict the guilty – much like DNA.

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