Monday, July 20, 2009

Say Cheese and Lock Up!

Here's a new one. Tiburon, California. A small town with a population of around 9,000 located along the San Francisco Bay has decided that they're going to take an extra step in their efforts to prevent crime and to solve crimes after they've taken place. But don't you worry! It only involves taking a picture of the license plate of EVERY SINGLE CAR that drives into or out of Tiburon. That's all. Oh, and we're doomed.

Yes. From the Land of the Free, we have a town wanting to take pictures of everyone's car and license plate "just in case" there's a crime that needs solving. And in a poorly written article about this Orwellian implementation, the
AP states that "In 2008, police report there were 99 thefts, 20 burglaries and two auto thefts." Compare that to the 2007 figures given in the Tiburon Talk newsletter which states that there were "...99 thefts from vehicles,15 residential burglaries and 10 auto thefts." So the number of thefts remains about the same. (I'm assuming that they're both for "thefts from vehicles" as they've covered burglaries and auto theft in separate categories and there aren't any other numbers for crimes involving thievery.) Burglaries are up, but auto thefts are WAY down. So from 2007-2008, their crime rate has actually decreased and all without the use of roadside cameras documenting every single vehicle that goes through town. Amazing. How DID they do it?

Apparently it doesn't matter that their crime rate has decreased, because they're pretty hell bent on this camera idea. In 2007, the estimated property loss from theft was $500,000 and half of that was the value of the cars. And without their extremely invasive camera system, the Tiburon authorities managed to recover about $190,000. That's 38%. But in 2008 things got WAY better, as the total loss from theft was only just over $200,000 according to the
City of Tiburon's Proposed Security Camera Information Sheet. According to that same document, the system is expected to cost between $50,000 and $100,000, an estimate which seems to be clearly fabricated as if pulled directly from someone's arse. (Seriously. They're saying, "It's either going to be this number OR it's going to be twice as much." You don't think that they could narrow that down just a bit for people? I mean, saying that something is going to cost a certain amount is fine, but then saying that it MIGHT be twice that much? That doesn't sound like there's been a lot of shopping around for this dealio.)

According to that same document, the question "Is this a cost-effective use of public resources?" is at least ASKED. And the answer blows me away. "No one can say for certain whether the system will help the TPD capture criminals, but it is likely to provide a very valuable tool to develop leads for solving crime."

Wait. What? Oh, riiiiiight. That means "No, but we think it's pretty cool, so we're going to go ahead with this anyway."

According to the FBI's
Uniform Crime Reports, the average percentage of all stolen property that is recovered in this country is 33.4%. But while vehicles have the highest rate of recovery at 63%, the next highest rate of recovery is 12.9% and it goes downhill from there. But the point here is that Tiburon is doing just fine on their own, way better than the national average, without having Big Brother monitor every single vehicle moving through town. I can't imagine that their crime solving rate is going to improve SO much that it will pay for itself. But then again, the reason I can't imagine this is because no one is really explaining how this is going to work. Wait. What?

They explain how the SYSTEM of the photographing of vehicles would work, but they don't explain how that information is going to help them take a bite out of crime. They claim that, "Officers would search for plates of vehicles in town at the time of the crime that are connected to someone with a criminal history. Any hits would be used as leads." Um, used as leads HOW?

And what exactly would constitute a "criminal history"? Does the criminal history have to be related to the crime that the Tiburon police are investigating or can it just be any old thing? And how far back are they planning to go before deciding that an individuals "criminal history" isn't relevant in a particular instance? Yeah, NONE of this is addressed. (Again, NICE job, AP! Way to go!)

So let's say that 10 years ago "someone" was drunk and disorderly (and boy, was I were they EVER!) and let's just say, hypothetically of course, that there was some sort of an incident in a park involving, oh, too many wine coolers, a couple of pigeons, and almost NO frontal nudity. And all of which led to an arrest for public intoxication. Hypothetically. Is that a criminal history that would concern the Tiburon authorities is that person had been driving through Tiburon at the time when a crime was committed? (Assuming it's a crime NOT against pigeons.) Granted, in general, it's something that's cause for concern, but in this case, is it going to be considered one of their "leads"? And if so, then what? Start hanging out in parks with decoy pigeons trying to lure the almost totally rehabilitated former criminal out into the open? I don't get it.(Also, this whole idea also makes the grand assumption that the person driving the vehicle is the person who owns the vehicle and to whom the vehicle is registered to. I see loads of problems with that aspect of this as well.)

Obviously, this idea is highly disturbing as far as the right to privacy aspect of it goes. Aside from that, there's the cost of the program, how the program will work and be implemented and whether or not it will even be effective AT ALL. I cannot see one positive aspect of this idea other than the POSSIBILITY that it MIGHT help solve crimes. But what if there were a way that would likely only cost a small fraction of what this camera idea is going to cost that would make it so that the number of crimes dropped and dropped by a lot? Less crimes would lean toward less of a need for this sort of thing, wouldn't it? couldn't it? Sure! Of course it "could". But how could that happen? How could they get the number of crimes to go down without having to use ANY taxpayer money, without having to use ANY city funds, without having to use ANY police hours, without having to do ANYTHING really? Here's an idea: Lock your damn cars.

What now?

According to the Tiburon Talk, "Most of the crimes occurred between midnight and dawn and most were thefts from unlocked cars." MOST? MOST?! You want to implement a program to help solve crimes and MOST of those crimes were because people were too boneheaded to lock their cars?!? Are you kidding me??

How does the stupidity of vehicle owners justify the "need" to take a picture of the license plate of every single damn car going in and out of your town all the live long day? Let me just see if I've got this straight. You leave your car unlocked AND you're stupid enough to keep valuable items in there and then, to your COMPLETE surprise, your stuff gets ripped off and that indicates that CRIME is a problem. How is it not an indicator that stupidity is a problem?

MOST. Most of the thefts were from unlocked cars. That is amazing. Sure, don't do a public awareness campaign encouraging people to lock their vehicles or, at the very freaking least, don't keep stuff in there that you don't want to have stolen. Why is that not an alternative to the camera thing? Why hasn't that been brought up? MOST of the thefts are enabled by the person who was stolen from. That seems to be an important factor if you're trying to decide if ANY system to help "solve crimes (that could have been prevented)" is warranted in Tiburon. But of course, that isn't mentioned anywhere.

Note to self: Detour around Tiburon.
Next note to self: Lock your damn car.

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