The Vegas Shooting Makes It Clear More Surveillance Isn't The Answer

from the neither-is-a-reduction-in-civil-liberties dept

The solutions proposed by legislators, law enforcement, intelligence agencies, and multiple direct beneficiaries of amped-up surveillance in the wake of acts of terrorism are always the same: more of the stuff that didn't prevent the last attack.

London is a thicket of CCTV cameras and yet it's suffered multiple attacks in recent years. The NYPD and New York's former mayor idolized the London system: cameras everywhere (but not on NYPD officers). Despite this, New York City's relative safety appears to based more on policing tactics than hundreds of passive eyes.

Considering the unshakable belief "more cameras = more safety," how do surveillance supporters explain the recent shooting in Las Vegas, perhaps the most heavily-surveilled city on the planet?

In 2013, Nevada outfitted the Strip's "real-time crime center" with an additional 37 pivot-and-zoom cameras with a $350,000 federal grant. And as a surveillance expert told the Sun, most casinos on the strip are running thousands of cameras already: "Casinos have 100 percent coverage of virtually every square inch," he said. In the highways around Vegas, there are still cameras every half-mile. "Loss-prevention" recording devices stalk the Strip's employees in the back-of-house.

And still, while the footage will be rewound and analyzed in the coming weeks, acquired by the press, and used to model future scenarios, none of those cameras stopped a man from walking into the Mandalay and stocking a small arsenal of automatic weapons in his hotel room.

More isn't better. This much is clear. The NSA's infamous haystacks have caused more problems for analysts, who are tasked with sifting through millions of communications in hopes of flagging something worth pursuing. Thousands of cameras are useless if there aren't thousands of eyes to watch them in real time. It may help investigators after the fact, but after-the-fact detective work is never preferable to preventing deadly attacks.

As Molly Osberg points out for Splinter, the proposed prevention efforts will likely include even more cameras. And these proposals will come with zero stats backing up claims of increased safety and security.

[L]ondon police estimated almost a decade ago that for every 1,000 security cameras installed, only one crime was solved.

Eliminating cameras isn't the answer. But neither is continuing to prop up the delusion that more = safer. The same goes for other surveillance methods. Grabbing millions of communications daily might seem like a good way to catch something relevant now and then, but hours are wasted on filtering out false positives and internet detritus that wouldn't be swept up in more targeted approaches.

The surveillance state hasn't failed. It's just enamored with compounding its existing problems by adding more capacity. The only thing really guaranteed is more failure.

Filed Under: cameras, haystacks, las vegas, privacy, shooting, surveillance


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  1. icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 10 Oct 2017 @ 4:36pm

    Murderers vs. felons

    Ah, Anonymous Coward your comment didn't make sense to me because (last I checked) convicted murderers go to prison for a long time, and when they get out, it seems to me to follow that they don't keep their gun rights.

    It turns out that a federal law already prevents any felon from owning or holding a gun, though, granted, there is a process to get that right restored by the convicting state.

    So why'd you think I was talking about black murderers? I'm still not sure.

    I'm going to just give you the benefit of the doubt, Anonymous Coward, that you didn't actually research crime statistics, yourself, but got your factoid from literature your Wizard gave you. That is, you brought it up out of ignorance rather than malice.

    It turns out, though, we have way, way more felonies than we have murders.

    It's hard to provide a direct, numerical comparison because there's no place that keeps a tally of felony convictions by year. We had 15.6 thousand murders in 2015. It was a bad year. (This is: convictions of at least third-degree murder, not merely manslaughter.)

    It's hard to mesh that with another statistic that states 8% of the US population are convicted felons. That's roughly 26 million felons. About 8 million of them are in prison. Ours is the highest incarceration rate of any nation.

    Obviously they all didn't get convicted in 2015, but some of those felons are responsible for more than one felony, so the two numbers don't mesh easily.

    Still, I expect we can concur there's a lot of non-murderous felony going on, at least of higher-order magnitudes than there is murderin'. Yes?

    Also that is before we observe the US court system is one that provides every disadvantage to non-affluent suspects to assure a nearly 100% indictment rate and a 90% conviction rate. That's not to say the innocent are sorted from the guilty, but that a guy was grabbed by the police, and now he's doing time. The rich have rights. The police and officials are above the law. And the rest of us are below the law.

    And that's before we consider the racial biases that are evident in the Department of Justice and the legal system. It's super easy for blacks to end up not only a felon, but a violent felon if a police officer decides the guy is resisting arrest. Ours is a nation where you can have six officers club you into the hospital and then charge you with assaulting a police officer, not because you did anything, but because they don't like your face.

    Why are half the murderers blacks? I don't know. You seemed to want me to infer something. In fact, it takes several Wikipedia pages to explain the popular hypotheses in brief why they kill each other more than we do. And several books have been written about the phenomenon. I'd guess that gangs can't turn to the legal system to resolve disputes, so they settle things violently. It's why Italians liked to kill each other in the roaring 1920s.

    What I do know is that in the 70s, black guys were stereotypically known for raping white college women, or at least for being blamed for it and lynched, when there wasn't a courtroom that would convict him. We've since discovered black-on-white rape is pretty darned rare. It's super easy to blame our woes on marginalized groups. We still do that a lot today.

    So I'm personally hesitant to presume convicts were fairly investigated, tried and convicted, and the numbers were fairly counted.

    We do live in a police state, after all.


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