October 30, 2008

North Hollywood is going the way of Baltimore, Martin County, and Middlesbrough, England. It has installed “talking cameras,” ostensibly to ward off taggers and people who dump trash.

“Los Angeles police are using motion-activated cameras to warn vandals that they’re being watched,” reports WOAI for NBC News. “The motion triggers a recorded voice that states, ‘This is the Los Angeles Police Department. It is illegal to spray graffiti or dump trash here.’ The voice warns vandals that they are being recorded and will be prosecuted. The camera provides a high-resolution image of the tagger and the vehicle. It can capture an image of a license plate from 250 feet.”

Most people will likely not have a problem with these barking cameras if the devices prevent miscreants from vandalizing private and public property. However, once the public accepts this technology government will as a matter of course begin installing thousands of them at taxpayer expense.

Recall the 70 year old woman arrested for not watering her lawn, or the man arrested because his lawn was brown. Police and city governments find all sorts of reasons to fine, arrest, and even imprison people.

In the not too distant future, cameras may do this job. Imagine every neighborhood in a city with talking cameras monitoring citizens. “Citizen at 1200 Main Street, your lawn is too long. Cut it or face criminal penalty.”

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t

Outrageous? Consider Britain, where the plebs are monitored by trash bin police. In a recent case, a woman was fined £265 for taking her trash bin out to the curb 24 hours early. As the Mail Online reported in May, the government is forcing British families “to name somebody to be in charge of their rubbish under a council’s ‘zero tolerance’ approach to bin collections. The named individual faces £100 fines and a criminal record if their household then puts the wrong rubbish in its wheelie bins, puts them out too soon, or puts them in the wrong place.” In addition, the individual will be obliged “to give officials a breakdown of everyone who lives in their home, together with intimate information including details of medical conditions.”

Of course, this has nothing to do with garbage bins. It has to do with the state intruding on the lives of citizens under the flimsiest of excuses.

Same mindset applies to the installation of cameras that bark orders and make threats. Today the cameras ward off taggers, tomorrow they will be put everywhere and used to monitor and control the behavior of citizens.

As Orwell’s Winston Smith knew, the telescreens watched the citizens constantly. “He sat as still as he could on the narrow bench, with his hands crossed on his knee. He had already learned to sit still. If you made unexpected movements they yelled at you from the telescreen,” writes Orwell.

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