Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Big Victory Against the Police State in Dayton

Daytonians dodged a bullet. The people of Los Angeles suburb of Compton learned in late April they had been secretly monitored by air surveillance. The Los Angeles Times reports, “For nine days in early 2012, a small Cessna plane recorded low-resolution images of every corner of the 10.1-square-mile city and beamed them to the local Sheriff’s Department station, where deputies observed incidents including fender benders, a string of necklace snatchings and a shooting.” That’s not all they observed. These Peeping Toms observed everything that happened in Compton during those flights.
The Times documents the Dayton connection, “Ross T. McNutt, president of Persistent Surveillance Systems, which operated the aerial program, said the images beamed back by the cameras were so sweeping that each individual appears as a single pixel -- not nearly discerning enough to detect race, sex and other distinguishing characteristics. And only images tied to known crime scenes received close scrutiny, he said.” Right.
Persistent Surveillance Systems (PSS) is the local TechTown company which Dayton’s rulers planned to contract to monitor everybody in Dayton. Fortunately, after heavy criticism, they temporarily killed the plan, but promised to reconsider after critics became distracted by other issues.
The Compton report casts doubt on the veracity of the claims about the aerial Peeping Tom. For example, if people appear only as a pixel, it would impossible for the camera to resolve a necklace snatching , a shooting, or any action. That’s not very useful. Everything claimed about this spy scheme is fishy. Aerial spy cameras in the 1960s could read license plates. It defies logic that police would choose a lower resolution camera when they could employ one that reads license plates, recognizes facial features, and enables them to stalk your daughter.
Also, the way the system was used in Compton contradicts the Dayton plan. The Dayton Daily News documented, “The city has released a draft policy statement on how it would use the airplane cameras, saying they would only be deployed in a handful of circumstances — to disrupt Part I (felony) crime patterns, to assist in weather emergencies or natural disasters, to monitor illegal dumping, to support tactical operations (SWAT, hostage cases), and to monitor major events or large-scale disturbances.”
That isn’t how the system was used in Compton. It was used for general surveillance because the system is most effective in that role. Government always uses spy systems to their maximum capability. Local rulers’ claims about restricting the use of this spy system are no more credible than the National Security Agency’s claims it doesn’t spy on Americans. Rulers make claims like this to mislead people, then once the program starts, perverts use it to the full extent possible for their own purposes.
The DDN reported another discrepancy, “[Dayton Police Chief Richard] Biehl said the Boston Marathon bombings made a case in favor of the cameras — a major event where surveillance would occur, and images might show a perpetrator coming or going.” This claim contradicts the report that people show up as individual pixels. It would be impossible to track an individual pixel in a crowd of pixels, and it defies logic that Biehl would want to employ such a low-resolution camera when he could employ a modern, high-resolution camera that really could track a person through a crowd. If the plane really doesn’t have a high-resolution camera now, it would get one as soon as Dayton’s rulers signed a contract.
The targeting of Compton highlights the bad intentions behind this technology and validates critics. One Compton resident cut to the heart of the matter, “‘Why are we the target?’ asked Ellen Harris, 67, as she unloaded a cart full of groceries into her car. ‘As citizens we deserve [to know]. We are not all criminals.... It’s an invasion of privacy.’”
If PSS had flown their Peeping Tom plane over Hollywood for nine days, everybody in the world would be up in arms. Twitter would burn up. The Kardashians would sue. Alec Baldwin would go on a homophobic rant. George Clooney would interrupt President Obama and demand McNutt’s head on a platter for peeping in on the backyard activities of Hollywood royalty. And Obama would deliver it. But nobody cares about Ellen Harris, or anybody else, in Compton.
Critics correctly recognize this technology will be used primarily to exploit poor people and minorities. The rich and powerful have the resources to keep it away from them. And no phony government policy will change this.
Biehl justifies his desire to employ the Peeping Tom on dwindling police resources, but the data tell a different story. As the number of police in Dayton is reduced, crime rates have fallen. This happens everywhere. Because we were brainwashed by government schools and government-controlled media, Americans believe police reduce crime. The opposite is true. A Cato study discovered more police leads to more crime. Biehl is trying to justify his bureaucratic fiefdom and his exorbitant salary stolen from taxpayers. Our rulers’ desire for Peeping Tom technology isn’t going away, so we have to stay vigilant.

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