By Benito Segovia
HOUSTON TX – Just days after more than 70 red-light cameras were turned off thanks to a voter mandate, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it will be installing “250 to 300 cameras at downtown intersections in an effort to prevent and fight terrorism and crime.”
Although the timing of this announcement was likely coincidental, it couldn’t look worse for city officials. Almost immediately after a public mandate that such cameras be removed, DHS swoops in to install hundreds more.
While it is still unclear when the original red-light cameras are going to be removed, more than 50 DHS cameras have already been installed, with many more scheduled for installation this summer. The cameras are currently installed around the George R. Brown convention center, Discovery Green Park, the theater district and Minute Maid Park.
Big Brother at Home
The camera footage can be monitored in real-time from multiple locations. This is touted as way to allow police to monitor events remotely instead of staffing events in-person. (It has yet to be seen if this high-tech measure will reduce the cost of city security fees and permits for those holding such events.)
This measure has received opposition from both privacy advocates and budget hawks. Privacy advocates oppose the move because it would give the State an unprecedented look into the daily goings-on of average citizens. While others counter that there is no expectation of privacy in pubic places.
Incrementalism and The New Surveillance Society
Barry Klein, long-time Houston property rights and liberty activist, argued that the cameras would move citizens “deeper into the world of the surveillance society.” His point is well taken.
In the UK where citizens are accustomed to 24/7 surveillance measures, horrifying levels of privacy invasion are becoming more common. Last July the UK implemented “sin bins” for the nation’s 2,000 “worst” families. Each home would be installed with CCV cameras to “make sure children attend school, go to bed on time and eat proper meals.” What was the public reaction to this non-negotiable invasion of privacy? Not an outcry or public discussion about individual rights but rather, “this measure is too little, too late.”
So where does this leave Houstonians? With heightened security measures at our nation’s airports (and now our bus stations) we’ve seen an increase in the perception of security yet time after time after time actual security is lacking. Do we really expect such local interventions to be more effective?
Yet there is a legitimate need to secure ourselves from the criminal element. What measures can Houstonians strive for? Is it more guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens? Perhaps the answer lies with a return to a non-interventionist foreign policy or a reliance on private property owners to self-monitor?
Use the comments below to provide your thoughts.