Thursday, May 06, 2010

Cameras Destroy Property

Steve Chapman at Reason: "Which raises the question: What good are cameras? The debate over them is often framed as hardheaded law enforcement types versus wimpy civil libertarians. Whether the cameras actually work in practice to help solve and prevent crime generally gets ignored.

It shouldn't. Leave aside those airy privacy concerns for the moment. Installing, maintaining, and monitoring thousands of these devices, as in New York and Chicago, costs millions of dollars. Absent cameras, that money could be spent on beat cops, patrol cars, forensic equipment, jail cells, you name it.
But if cameras generally don't do much to prevent crime, surely they help collar the criminals they fail to deter? Not very often. A review by the London police department calculated, "For every 1,000 cameras in London, less than one crime is solved per year." Average cost for cracking a case: $30,000.

Chicago police say the cameras have produced 4,000 arrests since 2006. That sounds like a lot, but it works out to only about 1 in 200 arrests. And for 10,000 cameras, 4,000 arrests is not really a spectacular haul.

In San Francisco, the results have been even less impressive. In the first three years after the city installed cameras, they helped police charge suspects in a grand total of six cases.

A quick review:
Funding for cameras come from taxes.
Taxes are the price citizens pay for living in a governed society.
When the government wastes money, it squanders property.

Therefore, public cameras used by police departments are the following:
A. Largely useless in solving crimes.
B. Largely useless in preventing crimes.
C. Squandering tax dollars
D. Hampering real crime prevention by sidelining limited resources.

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