Article by Terry O’Neill, former alderperson and Lake Geneva activist.
The presence of a police officer generally slows traffic to the speed limit, as well as deters other crimes; whereas, while a camera can record a crime, it does little to prevent crime unless the criminal notices and cares about its presence. Historically, it does little for prevention of a crime unless the surveillance is very well publicized or known, and then it generally just moves criminal action out of the camera’s view. Prevention and deterrence as a result of citizen and police interaction prevent crimes in any area where that form of maintaining order is present. The prosecution and punishment for crimes committed in almost any area do almost nothing to prevent it. Those things do serve to highlight the danger of the area.
The use of security cameras on the general public in public areas subtly applies a fundamental public concern for the vandalism of property and for one’s personal safety in that area. America was founded on the concept of trust in the people, and distrust of government, and not the distrust of people and the trust in the government. The city council’s approval of surveillance of the downtown area is a step in the wrong direction, and it sends a disturbing message to locals, visitors and tourists: “beware, this area is not safe.” Some people feel that surveillance cameras are a good first step. It takes the police out of the public, and it puts their monitoring in a remote, safe and secure location to constantly view the video feed.
A next logical step, as they do in Great Britain, would be to add a microphone and speakers to the surveillance so that the police officer can remotely hear and communicate with those under surveillance. The third step is to arm the surveillance to assure and apply violent compliance of individuals in the area (nobody’s done that, yet). The fourth step is to replace the officer completely with video monitoring robot technology, including facial recognition and movement analysis, and restraint capability, thus eliminating the need for the officer to monitor the surveillance or be involved in any way. This progression, now partially being installed, puts a cold-hearted enforcement technology in charge and removes all human empathy and compassion from law enforcement.
The future of American freedom is being written off one step at a time. Each step that we take moves us in one of two directions. In one direction is “freedom from” and the other direction is “freedom to”. “Freedom from” is the process of sacrificing choice for protection and then living compliant, out of fear of those in authority. “Freedom to” is sacrificing security and protection for personal control, choice and responsibility. Although surveillance alone does not restrict one’s freedom, it so often is the first step in the road to ending it. There should be no objection to a business or private resident putting up surveillance on their own premises, but for the government to monitor the surveillance that covers or focusses on private businesses or private property (without a warrant) should not be legal and that, in effect, is what was just approved by the city council.