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
    tom (profile), 7 Oct 2017 @ 9:31am

    Cameras aid in the after the fact investigation. Even if a camera is pointed at the perfect place at the perfect time and the video is seen and acted on in seconds by a human, the reaction time of LEO's will still likely be minutes.

    Given this guy's wealth and time spent planning, we are lucky he chose to use guns. He could have easily rented a truck, filled it with explosive, and drove it into the crowd and detonated it. Or purchased a used jet, filled it with fuel and dove it into the crowd. In either case, we would likely be talking about thousands of deaths, not a number in the 50s. Speaking as one who felt, from a safe distance, the explosion of the truck at the Murrah building.

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