Quacks like Big Brother’s ducks

Here’s hoping that Ogden’s new Blade Runner-style crime watch program will help the city keep the ex-con reprobate population under control. But the police brass already is giving skeptics and paranoids stockpiles of ammo.

It’s simply unreal and unforgivable that Chief Jon Greiner hasn’t had the program’s exact budget numbers to provide during the public and media dog-and-pony shows, like the one described in today’s Standard-Examiner. He gave a vague total, and even less information about the supposedly benevolent private technology provider who’s building and running a lot of the technical muscle that allows the cops to keep watch over crime-ridden neighborhoods with databases and bright red bad-guys-zone gridlines.

How much, exactly, will Ogden taxpayers be on the hook for the annual operation of the crime center? What will be the eventual expense of the technology vendor’s wizardry? I don’t believe in free lunches, so I’ll be curious.

Coupled with the coming surveillance blimp, Ogden police will be able to watch over neighborhoods and capture and crunch observable data such as license plate numbers, etc. Do you want your car tags in that database? Sure, it’s all innocent, they say — until someone screws up with the data or the software and your car gets flagged as a gang getaway ride.

Go ahead, call me paranoid. But officialdom’s failure to readily disclose all budgetary details is not reassuring. And Greiner’s proclamation that the program “is not Big Brother” is a blithe dismissal that should be taken with some skepticism. The program smells like geeky overkill that will have to prove itself over time, at considerable cost (?) . Let’s hope it ends up to be a worthwhile step up from tried-and-true shoe-leather policing.

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16 Responses to Quacks like Big Brother’s ducks

  1. Reynolds Anderson says:

    Trust Greiner? The man who overlooks..er..oversees double-dipping in his ranks? Trust OPD?

    I’ll pass. I’ll be watching, but I pass…

  2. Owain says:

    OK, you’re paranoid.

    Ogden has problems. What’s he supposed to do, start using harsh language?

    • Bob Becker says:

      When a city has a problem, the course of wisdom is to do things with a high probability of being effective to solve those problems. It’s not the course of wisdom to do something, anything just to… well, just to do something. As the Trib reported, the only studies done on these high-surveillance crime centers in cities where they have already been deployed suggest they’ve had, so far, no measurable effect on crime rates.

      I don’t think anyone doubts Ogden has a crime problem, just as all Utah cities do. The question is, is the massive surveillance/crime center response a wise one to have taken, one with a high probability of success. Reducing the options, as your post does, to (a)high surveillance/crime center or (b) using harsh language trivializes both the problem and the range of possible responses.

      • Owain says:

        As I see it, the program as described in the paper yesterday is what those in the military would call a ‘force extender’.

        The problem with the ‘tried and true shoe-leather policing’ Mark described is that in order to get same degree of surveillance, intelligence, and responsiveness using boots on the ground, so to speak, you’d need an increase in manpower that would far more expensive than deploying the cameras, computers, and software in the current system.

        I think the only people who need to fear this system are the bad guys. I am not particularly sympathetic with their concerns.

        • Doug Vincent says:

          “A man with a clear conscience does not tremble at a midnight knock on his gate.” is a Chinese Proverb. Not American. We didn’t used to be so submissive in the West.

      • Owain says:

        “…the only studies done on these high-surveillance crime centers in cities where they have already been deployed suggest they’ve had, so far, no measurable effect on crime rates.”

        What studies would those be? Got a link?

        Forgive me if I don’t just take your word for it, but there are a lot of people on these boards who just like to make stuff up rather than support their arguments properly.

        • Bob Becker says:

          It was a SL Trib story some days ago. I’ll see if I can dig it up.

        • Bob Becker says:

          Here it is: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/lifestyle/52177277-80/cameras-center-ogden-crime.html.csp

          From the story:

          “A 2005 Home Office study of cameras in England (the immigration and security arm of the English government), which uses more surveillance cameras than any country, showed that such video monitoring had “no overall effects” on crime rates. And a 2008 study from the University of Southern California that considered the use of security cameras in two areas of Los Angeles showed no “statistically significant effect in reducing the overall monthly crime rates.”

          PS: No apology necessary, ever, for asking for sources. I do it myself pretty often.

          • Owain says:

            That doesn’t surprise me. I think that being dumb is a part of the job description for criminals.

            Here is a link to a presentation that deals mostly with bank security systems.
            “Bank surveillance cameras are in widespread use: 98 percentof robbed banks have interior surveillance cameras.102 However, cameras do not appear to reduce robberies.Many bank robbers are not deterred because they simply do not believe they will be caught. Others believe thatcameras can be thwarted with a disguise or by covertbehavior or that cameras can be disabled such as withspray paint; or they simply do not think about cameras at all.”

            The author goes on to explain that the purpose of survelliance equipment is for increased apprehension rather than for deterrence.

            If Ogden’s system leads to increased rates of apprehension and serves to get criminals off the street, even if it doesn’t deter criminals, I’m OK with that.

            If you can’t deter them, arresting them more easily will be a good thing.

  3. D. Michael Martindale says:

    Your reaction, Doug, is a lot tamer than mine would be.

  4. Owain says:

    Michael, I think you mean Mark. Doug is not prone to fits of hyperventilation like this.

  5. Marcus says:

    I have to agree and will stay away from Ogden when I can. I can see abuses of this system such as the police using the blimp, camera’s, and license plate readers to capture people who go to bars to eventually pull them over for suspected drunk driving when the only indication that they were drinking is that their license plate was captured in a bar parking lot. The police can also keep tabs on people who frequent bars and label them as drunk drivers even though they drink responsibly or go to bars as a designated driver for their friends who plan to drink. The blimp can also be used for revenue generating operations such as finding yard ordinance violations that someone’s neighbors haven’t complained about. This whole system appears to be easy to abuse and why should law abiding citizens give up their rights to privacy because of non law abiding citizens? The costs to Ogden taxpayers hasn’t been discussed which is very important since this technology isn’t free. I’m glad I am not an Ogden resident and hopefully neighboring cities will not do what Ogden is doing or allow the Ogden Police Department to fly the blimp over their neighborhood to peer into the privacy of their back yard that is private except for a blimp flying overhead equipped with cameras. What will happen to pictures taken by the blimp? Will your wife or daughters have to worry about sunbathing in the back yard and having the police peer at them and take photos of their sexy bodies? Even worse, could these pictures end up in the wrong hands and be posted on the Internet? This whole crime system is a violation of privacy and sounds like 1984. For the people who say this is necessary to win war on crime, remember that Ben Franklin once said “Anyone willing to give up freedom for a sense of security deserves neither.” Law abiding citizens should not be forced to give up their privacy so that the Ogden Police Department can catch criminals by spying on their own citizens.

    • Rosa says:

      You need to seek psychiatric help! You are paranoid! The police are professionals and will not use the blimp to look at women who are sunbathing and take photos. If you are not a criminal you have nothing to worry about! I take it you have never flown in an airplane. The TSA has an x-ray machine that sees inside your clothing and you can be randomly selected for additional searching. We live in a society where this surveillance is necessary for our country to win the war on terror! Ogden will be safe as it use to be. I will be happy to see the Ogden Police Department blimp flying overhead protecting us from criminals! Cost isn’t an issue when it comes to protecting our city from crime!

      • Dave J says:

        Not all cops are professionals who don’t misuse their authority. How about the recent story of a 17-year-old lady forced to strip by a Box Elder County Officer? This officer nearly got away with what he did. The only way he is now being investigated is because the driver had a copy of the warning citation but for some reason the officer never filed a copy with the county. During the traffic stop he made this lady and two others remove their shoes and walk barefoot in the snow (foot fetish) and remove their bras for him to complete an illegal search of these women. The victim was told that there was a warrant for her arrest and she could submit to an illegal strip search or go to jail. The woman reluctantly submitted because she feared the prospects of going to jail. When she asked another police agency about the warrant, it turned out no such warrant existed for her or someone with a similar name. Most likely this officer fabricated the warrant story to take advantage of a 17-year-old woman and conduct an illegal fully nude strip search on her.

        • Blue Sky says:

          Prior to HIPPA, it was commonplace for hospital workers to go into the computer database to look at celebreties’ personal information. Why should this be any different?

  6. Steven Brown says:

    Check the fiscal budgets of Ogden City. You will find that much of the money used by the city is collected from proactive cooperatives. Some of the improvements have come from donations, including many squad cars from private citizens. As for Chief Greiner; have you noticed that a lot more law enforcement resources have been coming into this city since he started advocating to fight crime? Of course the crime rate cannot always be directly effected by the technology but, it helps to gather information to study patterns of behaviors in a targeted location. Convicting criminals and preventing crime is the responsibility of the citizens, not the police. We have community policing in Ogden and community officers. As for the argument about the annoyance of criminal behavior; I think that includes traffic violations, lawns and yards that lead to safety and fire hazards and collections of junk that are breeding grounds for rats and snakes. Perhaps some of the condescending and the presumptuous should pay a few finds until they get that they are not above the law either.

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