I’m a big fan of digital camera technology, and thus I usually am quick to support intelligent uses related to detective controls. Take for example a Bed & Breakfast that had issues with people loitering across the street dealing drugs. The B&B installed a camera, took some extracted video to the absent property owner and the next thing you know the neighborhood felt safe again. Here’s another example. Some well-intentioned system administrators were moving equipment in the racks when suddenly a core network device went off-line. Everyone started pointing fingers but a simple review of the video at the exact moment that the services were terminated shows who was in the cookie jar pulling power cables, and who was not.
Surveillance doesn’t happen in a vacuum, however, and there should be the same care and caution applied as with any other detective controls. Sadly, some investigators get so excited about the opportunity to nail every tiny infraction with uncontestably strong evidence that they start to sound like rabid dogs, ready to chase down every living thing and chew it to the bone.
Take for instance this proposal, recently captured in The Times:
BRITAINâ€™S top traffic policeman is pushing through plans to create a national network of roadside spy cameras that will be able to track the movements of motorists around the clock.
Meredydd Hughes wants the cameras to be installed every 400 yards on motorways, as well as at supermarkets, petrol stations and in town centres.
They are designed to crack down on uninsured driving, road tax evasion and stolen cars, but will also monitor millions of law-abiding drivers.
It sounds expensive and invasive with little return, if you ask me. One thing that surveillance camera projects should never do is start with an overly broad objective. It is similar to saying you want to write software to improve security every 400 yards on motorways…if you don’t start out with a good focus on the purpose of the system, then you will never end up with a clear picture of its usefulness.
On the other hand, when someone actually reveals that not only is there no intended benefit to the public but the real purpose of the surveillance (detective control) system is to become a source of revenue/taxation for the police, well, that should ring some alarm bells under the category of “clear conflict of interest”:
An Acpo strategy document, seen by The Sunday Times, makes the controversial suggestion that every ANPR â€œintercept officerâ€? should aim to issue at least 310 fixed-penalty notices a year.