from the and-now-you-get-neither dept
Crime rates are increasing. And too many government officials are deciding it must be something other than the most obvious explanation. That’s prompting actions that will give residents of certain states and cities less liberty, while doing very little for their safety.
Virginia in July will eliminate its prohibition on local police use of facial recognition a year after approving it, and California and the city of New Orleans as soon as this month could be next to hit the undo button.
Homicide reports in New Orleans rose 67% over the last two years compared with the pair before, and police say they need every possible tool.
City leaders seem to have forgotten (and police officials seem to be deliberately forgetting) what was happening all across the country in 2020. A pandemic hit and cities were on lockdown. Travel was severely restricted. When people’s movements are limited, so are their activities, whether its travel miles, retail purchases, or, yes, even committing homicide.
A 67% increase in retail sales would be treated as the expected outcome of lifting COVID-related restrictions that were put in place in 2020. But a 67% increase in homicides is treated as though it’s a symptom of placing too many restraints on law enforcement, limiting their effectiveness in preventing or solving crimes.
In 2019, New Orleans hit a 50-year low for homicides. That it hit 218 in 2019 is cause for concern, but also marked a regression towards the mean. 218 homicides is still far lower than the city’s peak of 464, reached in 1994. And any attendant drops in crime rates in 2020 and 2021 can likely be attributed to COVID restrictions, rather than New Orleans cops getting better at preventing or solving crime.
They certainly aren’t all that great at solving murders, despite these numbers remaining at historic lows.
NOPD records show as of Dec. 27, NOPD made arrests in 70 of the 214 murders through that date in 2021 and had warrants out on another six murder cases from last year.
Ferguson said there were 20 indictments in the year 2021.
Perhaps the NOPD’s inability to close murder cases is leading to this perceived spike. When it’s clear you have nearly a 67% chance to get away with murder, you might think it’s a viable option with an extremely limited downside.
What’s not included in this agitating for the overturning of facial recognition bans is any evidence that lack of access has contributed to crime rate increases — one that can more likely be attributed to the removal of COVID restrictions in recent months. Even if COVID isn’t to blame/thank for crime rate decreases in 2020 and 2021, it’s equally unlikely the absence of facial recognition tech access is to blame for crime rate increases that, once again, have only brought crime rates up to levels that are higher than a couple of years ago but are still a vast improvement over those seen 15-20 years ago.
And what’s going to happen once these bans are lifted? If anyone actually believes this is going to result in a 67% decrease in homicides in New Orleans (for example), they’re genuinely too stupid to hold public office. Their lack of critical reasoning makes them a liability, something that’s going to continue to cause more harm to both public safety and residents’ civil liberties.
California in 2019 banned police from using facial recognition on mobile devices such as body-worn cameras. But the prohibition expires on Jan. 1 because of a provision state senators added.
Now, news reports about rising retail theft and smash-and-grab robberies have captured lawmakers’ attention, said Jennifer Jones, a staff attorney for ACLU of Northern California.
As a result, ACLU has faced resistance from law enforcement to make the ban permanent.
“Police departments are exploiting people’s fears about that crime to amass more power,” Jones said. “This has been for decades, we see new technologies being pushed in moments of crisis.”
This is lazy lawmaking. This allows one narrative to determine what can be inflicted on all Californians. And, again, anyone expecting the lifting of the ban to result in the lowering of crime rates to levels seen before the ban is asking far too much from a tool with limited usefulness and even worse accuracy. California legislators are willing to protect their constituents, but apparently only until someone starts making noise about criminal activity that is perceived to be far more omnipresent than it actually is. And it’s another sacrifice of liberty that can’t even pretend to bring about a corresponding gain in public safety.