Like most large cities overrun by criminal street gangs—in D.C., the primary affiliations are the Republicans and the Democrats, but there still Baseball Furies, Lizzies, and Libertarian dead-enders around—Washington has started installing surveillance cameras at virtually any location in which the city might generate anywhere betwee $30 and $200 per speeding or missed-sign ticket.
In response, more drivers are using GPS units that include info on surveillance cams and beep when you drive near one, cautioning the driver to slow down to avoid an infraction. The DC police response to this is reported by David Freddoso in the DC Examiner:
D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier doesn't like it. She told The Examiner that those using the application are employing a "cowardly tactic" and "are going to get caught"
"It's designed to circumvent law enforcement," she said last week—"law enforcement that is designed specifically to save lives."
So let's get this straight: If I slow down when my GPS beeps, that doesn't save lives. What saves lives is when I speed, get a $200 ticket in the mail a week later, and then send a check to the District of Columbia government.
If you're not convinced by this logic, you're not alone. Joe Scott, the founder and CEO of PhantomAlert, told me that most police departments approve of his product precisely because cameras only affect driving behavior when people know they are there.
Despite claims that the traffic cameras (and other surveillance cams in public places) are there to increase safety (which they don't), they are there to raise revenue and watch more people (because watching people is the best fun there is). Can't the police just add the cost of an overpriced chocolate bar to each ticket issued? We'll call it a good-faith donation.