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. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2017 @ 2:21pm

    Re: What I'd like to see come out of this is...

    Regarding London, what is curious to me is why more cameras aren't solving more crimes,

    For the video to be useful after the fact, someone has to work out which cameras were pointed in the right direction at the right time. Often the picture is not clear enough to use automated tools like facial recognition, or the suspect is facing the wrong direction. It can cost a lot of man hours to find out that dozens of cameras have nothing particularly useful, therefore the camera videos are the last resort, rather than the first resort, except for one or two right at the scene of the crime.


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