I suppose it was inevitable. After surveillance images came out identifying Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s faces as those who brought terror to the Boston Marathon, it was going to happen. Someone out there would argue that we need even more cameras to help catch terrorists who strike.
However, what those who want more cameras seem to miss is that the cameras which gave us the best images of the terrorists? Yeah, those cameras were privately owned by a department store.
You see, private businesses have a vested interest in installing cameras in and around their businesses. Rather than to combat terrorism, it’s to deter more mundane crimes like burglary or vandalism. These crimes cost businesses money, so the investment of a few cameras to deter them – or help catch the perpetrators if the deterrent fails – makes financial sense.
That’s just part of the free market. Businesses make purchases that make sense to them. Don’t believe it? Convenience stores routinely have cameras at work, while locally owned hardware stores don’t. That’s because convenience stores are far more likely to be targeted by armed robbery than hardware stores. It makes sense for a convenience store to record what happens in their establishment, but not so much for the guys selling nails and paint.
It was this fact, and not the myriad of government controlled cameras in Boston that lead to the breakthrough in the Boston Marathon bombings. For some people, it may not matter. However, it really does.
Regardless of how you feel about government cameras, we all know that many civil libertarians – and yes, I’m in that camp – have a problem with Big Brother keeping an eye on your comings and goings. However, they think nothing of a department store or any other establishment installing cameras. Businesses have a right to protect their property, and it has the added benefit of there being some level of Fourth Amendment protection in place to prevent the state from doing anything that looks like spying.
I’ll admit it; more cameras may well help catch more criminals. In theory, it should work. It doesn’t necessarily, but I understand the idea. However, I just don’t trust these cameras in the hands of those who have a vested interest in maintaining or growing power.
“If you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide.” I’ve heard that for years. Here’s the problem though. Some estimates argue that the average person commits three felonies a day without ever knowing it. If that’s true, then all it would take are cameras that track people to just wait for that magic moment, then the powers that be would have all they need to legally get rid of opposition.
I understand that this sounds paranoid, and I’m not suggesting that the current administration would do this. I’m not suggesting that the vast majority of government officials would cross this line either. However, all it takes is for one person in a position of authority to overstep their bounds and do just this.
The police state is never a good idea. This is especially true when we see that all the government owned cameras in Boston – symbols of the dreaded police state – were useless. Instead, it was the free market that gave us the photos that lead to the Tsarnaev brothers.
Isn’t capitalism beautiful?