Jun 22, 2007

Mayor Danny Jones wants to bring Big Brother to West Virginia

As WSAZ reported earlier this week:

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones wants to double the city user fee (the dollar a week fee charged to everyone who works inside city limits) and spend some of the money for surveillance cameras.

Jones believes putting cameras throughout Charleston will make the city safer.

"If criminals know they could be picked up on camera they might pick another city to prey on," Mayor Danny Jones said.

Actually, WSAZ's headline for the article on their website stated stated Major Jones "wants to blanket the city with surveillance cameras to deter crime". In other words, this republican "conservative" mayor wants to bring "Big Brother" to West Virginia via the capital city.

One could say that he wants to do to Charleston what Guliani did to New York City, make it a police-state city of the Orwellian mode (recall military-fitted police and arrests of lawful protesters at Republican Convention), under the "plea of safety and security". Is this what West Virginia really wants--to be a total surveillance grid like (disarmed) Great Britain, or New York or Chicago, "free citizens" being monitored 24/7? What will happen to "Mountaineers are always free", when the government increasingly claims exceptions of "necessity"!

Adding insult to injury (and ignoring thousands of vociferous complaints) this will all be paid for by doubling the infamous "user fee" (like a "privilege tax") to those who work in Charleston, even if they live outside it (i.e. "taxation without representation"). Truly there is nothing conservative about this taxing, pro-gambling Mayor! Have West Virginians really considered this issue carefully (for if permitted here it will expand to all cities), or will they listen to the security pundits on talk radio and bow to the claim of "necessity" for law enforcement?

A very different consequence other than the Mayor's design could occur to the detriment of the city:
"If criminals know they could be picked up on camera they might pick another city to prey on." Not so fast Mr. Mayor, one could also say this:

"If CONSUMERS know they could be picked up on camera they might pick another city to SHOP in!"
Given the unpopularity of the user fee, now proposing to be doubled, and some calling for boycotts of Charleston shopping, this could already be well under way. Has the Mayor considered the viewpoint of free Mountaineers as consumers who do not want to be recorded on camera for going about their own business? What exactly is a "high crime area" and what did the reporters mean by "blanket the city"? No doubt this would be expanded constantly until the cameras are common place.

Mayor Jones needs to know, and so do metro Charlestonians before he proceeds, that both his premise and conclusions about "deterrence" and "security" are presumptive and faulty, as well as it being a direct threat to both "freedom" and "privacy" from government intrusion that both West Virginia's and the U.S. Constitution have embedded in supreme law:

1. The promise of increased safety and security as a crime deterrent appears to be propagated by the "terrorist-security" merchandisers (who are aggressively lobbying governments, playing the fear card since 9/11, and making irresponsible claims as much as pharmaceutical companies on their products) making inflated promises while pushing their hi-tech toys for law enforcement. THE CLAIM THAT SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS IN CITIES DETERS CRIME SOUNDS GOOD, BUT STUDIES HAVE PROVEN IT TO BE FALSE. The United Kingdom is far ahead on the use of surveillance cameras and therefore should be a good judge of their effectiveness. Major London media reported the results over a year ago in no uncertain terms:

Closed circuit TV systems are of little use in the fight against crime, a surprise government report claims today.

Home Office researchers who studied 14 schemes across Britain found that only one had brought a clear fall in the local crime rate. [One in 14!]

While there was strong public support for CCTV before it was installed, opinion began to shift when people realised the cameras made little difference....

....The report's author, Professor Martin Gill of the University of Leicester, said: "For supporters these findings are disappointing. For the most part CCTV did not produce reductions in crime and did not make people feel safer."

The only one of the 14 schemes found to be a success was targeted at car parks, where it led to a significant drop in vehicle crime. Other schemes in city centres, residential areas and hospitals produced no clear benefits.

Would it not be wise to consider this expensive venture by predecessors who have made liberal use of it? Where is the "crime deterrent" in this case study of one of the largest western cities in the world, using hi-tech 24/7 surveillance on CCTV? Pray tell, Mr. Mayor and law enforcement officials, would you not be better off considering spending the money on other resources than this, real law enforcement instead of police voyeurism, which the (more thoughtful, constitutionally-minded) public will hate? How about considering this cost-benefit analysis, before increasing taxation on the people and violating their right to privacy, their enjoyment of freedom? Pondering minds want to know.

The premise and conclusion of the Mayor's argument (supported by talk radio proponents of excessive police powers) for installing surveillance cameras is then refuted through this effective case study. No doubt the security merchandisers and lobbyists will push others "studies" and "facts" before law enforcement's eyes, but can they be impartial or unbias?

2. The purpose of the Constitution is to regulate and restrain the powers of government (i.e. a good thing!), including police powers, which is why we fought the British in 1776. Since modern republicans (and democrats) seems to forget what freedom really means (more than waving a flag), here is the West Virginia Constitution, which repeats some of the Bill of Rights, yes the same Constitution they swear to "defend and protect", but seldom do:

3-1. Bill of rights.

All men are, by nature, equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity, namely: The enjoyment of life and liberty...

3-6. Unreasonable searches and seizures prohibited.

The rights of the citizens to be secure in their houses, persons, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated. No warrant shall issue except upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, particularly describing the place to be searched, or the person or thing to be seized.

Where will "freedom" and being "independent" and our "inherent rights" to the "enjoyment" of "liberty" go?

Surveillance cameras do not record criminals, they record EVERYONE, and they "search" EVERYONE constantly, 24/7, without "probable cause", without "warrant".
Specifically, these digital surveillance cameras have "facial mapping" technology (as the DMV also installed last year). That means that while they appear non-obtrusive they are taking a DIGITAL "FINGERPRINT" OF YOUR FACE, and this is being "seized", without "probable cause", and recorded for up to 30 or 60 days (as the proposal reported). YOU ARE BEING WATCHED, FILMED AND RECORDED AS A CRIMINAL SUSPECT (cameras have no human judgment) while engaging in lawful behavior (crimes are the exception), AND YOUR PRIVACY IS BEING VIOLATED CONTRARY TO THE BILL OF RIGHTS THAT EARLY AMERICANS FOUGHT AND DIED FOR. It is intrusive. It is not a mark of free society, but that of a Totalitarian government, contrary to the Constitution.

Before West Virginians get used to this by passivity or accident, without thorough thinking, without exerting their Constitutional rights, and continuity of government, they need to consider how it will be expanded. The video below shows a UK Mayor who is nicknamed "Robo Cop" (as could Mayor Jones as well if he continues this policy) and the extent to which the Surveillance Camera is expected to go, which is being pushed under the plea of "necessity", contrary to the evidence. West Virginians do not want to live in the UK or New York City, but wild and wonderful West Virginia, enjoying their liberty and still proclaiming "Mountaineers are always free".