Sunday, May 20, 2007

Too Much Or Too Little

I'm not sure what I dislike the most; too much or too little law n' order. Either way, it is a direct reflection of a society's abiltity to police itself, that is, the extent of self control exercised by its citizens. If the government is too strong, you have tyranny - a police state. If it is too weak you have anarchy - which can also be a form of tyranny - the tyranny of the mob. Either way personal freedom suffers.

In England they are blindly marching to the tune of Orwell's "1984." Constant government surveillance, thought impossible only a few decades ago, is closer to reality. Big Brother technology has advanced to the point where there is a surveillance camera for one out of every fourteen Brits.

AN increase in closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras risks turning Britain into an Orwellian society, a senior police officer said in an interview broadcast today.

The deputy chief constable of Hampshire Police, in south-east England, Ian Readhead, said he did not want to live in a country like that in author George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984, with surveillance on every street corner.

This is a country that for all intents and purposes, no longer allows you to defend yourself. It no longer trusts its citizens to do the right thing. Transitioning from relatively peaceful, lawful societies, England, Wales and Scotland are now some of the most violent nations on the planet (according to a UN report). And to fight this decline the Brits throw up more cameras.

I'm really concerned about what happens to the product of these cameras and what comes next," he told BBC television, highlighting the fact that a village in his area had installed CCTV, despite crime rates being low. "If it's in our villages, are we really moving towards an Orwellian situation with cameras on every street corner? I don't think it's the kind of country I want to live in."

Nor I, Deputy Chief Constable Readhead. It is a terrible thing to watch a nation like England undergo these changes.

He also called for a review of speed cameras and limits to the retention of DNA, which is taken from anyone arrested even if they are not charged. Britain's DNA database is the largest in the world, with 3.6 million samples.

There are an estimated 4.2 million CCTV cameras in Britain – one for every 14 people. Every person is caught on camera about 300 times each day. A new system of "talking" CCTV was unveiled earlier this year.

Imagine, every person is captured on a surveillance camera 300 times a day. Are they any safer? It appears not.

And who are all these people who are supposed to be watching all these cameras? I doubt that there are but a single viewer for every thousand cameras.

We recently reviewed a gun shot alert system that combines audio and video surveillance. The problem is, someone has to be available to keep a pair of eyes on the video component. Otherwise it is just another way to document a life snuffed out prematurely rather than trying to prevent such a death.

We are told by residents that is is extremely difficult to obtain a firearm to defend yourself. Handguns have been all but eliminated (except for criminals). It appears that all these cameras are nothing but an electronic post mortem.

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas last year warned that Britain was becoming a "surveillance society" where CCTV cameras, credit card analysis and travel movements are used to track people's lives minute by minute.

A study by human rights watchdog Privacy International last November ranked Britain bottom of the democratic Western world and alongside Russia for its record on protecting individual privacy.

I wonder where the outrage is in England? This truly stinks. The British government has banned guns and now is seeking to control knives.

A Scottish Executive spokesman added: "While violent crime has decreased recently in Scotland, people are still the victims of violence, especially knife crime.

"That's why we will address the culture of violence by doubling the maximum penalty for carrying a knife to four years, by strengthening police powers of arrest for people suspected of carrying a knife, and by raising the age at which a person can buy a non-domestic knife from 16 to 18.

"We are also reforming Scotland's drinking laws to help reduce the connection between alcohol and violent crime."

I think I would rather get shot than sliced up by some drunken hooligan. Years ago I had a case where a drunken brawl at a bar resulted in one man receiving over three hundred stitches to close his wounds. What's next on the English list of forbidden trinkets? Cricket bats? Heavy shoes?

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