“If Big Brother saves lives, then I’m happy to be Big Brother.” – Florida’s Palm Beach County Commissioner Burt Aaronson
What is it about modern Western Civilization that has often caused people to trade things of greater value (wisdom, integrity, honor, liberty) for something of lesser or more ambiguous worth? Is it a misplaced hope, selfish interests, or a lacking in full comprehension of what’s truly at stake? For instance: take closed circuit television cameras (CCTV). These days, people can’t seem to walk (or drive) one city block without coming across several. We’re told they are there to keep us, and our property safe. But really, why so many? And more troubling still, how did the once nightmarish “Orwellian” future of constant observation become implemented with many folks simply unconcerned?
As the poster child of Government surveillance, red light cameras have become a hot-button issue for many liberty-minded activists, and rightly so. For instance, Photoenforced.com’s database lists 33 red light traffic cameras for Kansas City, and 87 for St. Louis. But while red-light cameras do present a sticky Constitutional issue, more disturbing is the often unnoticed concern of literally hundreds of cameras scattered across Missouri’s major roadways. (Please see The Eye in the Sky Graphic included below, or click Trafficland.com for more information)
The answer behind these cameras (and more) may lie with the U.S. Department of Transportation, who has been pushing for increased monitoring and control not only over the roadways in our communities, but also over the vehicles and operators themselves. In 1998, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, under Section 5117 of the Transportation Equity Act stated that Congress required the U.S. Department of Transportation to “conduct research on the deployment of a system of advanced sensors and signal processors in trucks and tractor-trailers to determine axle and wheel alignment, monitor collision alarm, check tire pressure and tire balance conditions, measure and detect load distribution in the vehicle, and adjust automatic braking systems.”
And In 2004, a system called Clarus was launched in an effort to provide, “near real-time atmospheric and pavement observations from more than 2,000 environmental sensor stations and 45,000 road sensors deployed by state departments of transportation.”
Finally, as if sensors weren’t enough – the Government seems to believe that public safety, the environment, and a more responsive Police State, can be found through an Intelligent Transportation System. “Connected vehicles have the potential to transform the way Americans travel through the creation of a safe, interoperable wireless communications network—a system that includes cars, buses, trucks, trains, traffic signals, cell phones, and other devices.” This can be accomplished through “roadside-mounted microwave radar sensors that transmit energy toward an area of the roadway from an overhead antenna… The energy then enters a receiver where the detection is made and vehicle data, such as volume, speed, occupancy, and length, are calculated.”
- Est. Cost of 4 Delta DRS1000 Speed Sensor (with installation) $6,780.00
- Est. Video Camera Costs: 1 lane: $5,000 – 4 lane: $18,200
Still, many communities like the City of Columbia Missouri, believe that cameras are a big help when it comes to deadly crashes and missing children. “Photo red light enforcement has been used in the United States for more than 15 years and in Europe for nearly 30 years. Systems are used in the United States in more than 160 communities in 25 states. During “AMBER Alerts” used to locate missing children, the red light cameras in Columbia can be switched to search for wanted or suspect vehicles.” Wow! Really? Yet another predictable appeal to the hearts of our citizens? Why doesn’t leadership be honest, and state the obvious – that Government claiming to benevolently watch over people, while at the same time exerting control over their lives, is clearly a win-win.
Meanwhile, let’s not forget the insurance companies, who also have something to gain. Says the City of Columbia, Mo., “Studies indicate a substantial decrease in the severity of traffic crashes at intersections and on roadways where traffic enforcement cameras are installed. Organizations such as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safetyhave information available on this subject.” And you can bet that it’s this surveillance-based information that makes them bucket-loads of money. Just like Progressive Auto Insurance’s Snapshot program where drivers are monitored for good driving, and charged when they step out of line. And we wonder why more adults are acting like children these days. Nanny-State? Anyone?
But not everyone paints such a rose-tinted picture for the tax-paying communities who are living beneath an ever-watchful gaze of State-sponsored surveillance. LA Weekly reports in a Sept. 29, 2010 article that, “L.A. Controller Wendy Greuel was scheduled to release an audit today showing that the cameras, which were intended to make money, actually cost city coffers $2.6 million “without full cost recovery,” according to her office. “ And Not Bored.org noted that in 2003, while New York City spent $9 million to create a surveillance infrastructure of 150 cameras, “It is obvious that the interests of the people of the City of New York would have been much better served if this money had been used to employ sufficient numbers of decently-paid police officers to monitor the circulation of traffic in New York City. (Nine million dollars translates into yearly salaries of $50,000 each for 180 police officers.)”
So in conclusion, consider the formidable defense the human immune system utilizes in fighting infection – the tiny white blood cell. While proper amounts of these helpful cells help maintain good health, too many indicates a serious problem. Likewise, when the programs and expenditures of our Government no longer become helpful – but a clear indication of a serious problem – death or a return to good health is entirely up to you. Not your Government.