Politicians, like little children in the old saying, should be seen but not heard.
Politicians and Children Hope To Provide Popular Wisdom
November 1, 2007
by Joseph P. Tartaro
Children because they babble and bawl; politicians for the same reason. In fact, if politicians were guided by this old maxim, it would serve to their benefit.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a good example. And not just because of his campaign to eradicate what he calls illegal guns. Despite gathering about a hundred like-minded local politicians to his Mayors Against Gun Violence (MAIG), Bloomberg, like many anti-gunners, is headed in the wrong direction. That’s why the MAIG campaign is doomed to failure.
Instead of targeting the weapons criminals use, they should be focusing on the criminals. Instead of wasting money on pointless lawsuits, they should be beefing up police patrols, and they should be insisting that criminals who are apprehended and convicted should do serious jail time.
Perhaps because Bloomberg was so successful as a businessmanand there are millions of businessmen who rely on his Bloomberg News Servicepeople think he should be credible in everything he does. But that’s dribble. Bloomberg is no more a useful director of public policy than he is a concert pianist.
Just look what else Bloomberg has gotten into.
According to The New York Daily News and other news agencies reporting from London, England, Mayor Bloomberg has a message for New Yorkers who don’t like surveillance cameras: Get real!
“It’s just ridiculous people who object to using technology,” the mayor said, adding that he had not talked with anyone in London who wasn’t “thrilled” at the presence of security cameras in their capital.
The Daily News reported at the beginning of October that a camera in lower Manhattan has been secretly recording license plates in a test of the planned “Ring of Steel” surveillance system.
The plates are compared against a database so the New York Police Department (NYPD) can immediately know when a suspicious car or truck is in the area. London has such a system in place in its financial district.
Bloomberg, appearing with London Mayor Ken Livingstone at a news conference, said New Yorkers are “very naïve” if they don’t realize they are already being watched.
“We are under surveillance all the time,” he said, pointing out that cops grab video from private closed-circuit cameras when crimes are committed.
As for privacy concerns, he said, “You’ve already given that away when you buy a car and register it and put a license plate on the back, which is basically putting your name on the back of the car.”
In that, Bloomberg is largely correct. Police agencies can go from your license plate to pretty much everything else that is on file in a database somewhere.
Livingstone agreed that Londoners feel safer because of the cameras, saying he couldn’t recall a single letter of complaint.
Bloomberg called his visit to the United Kingdom a “busman’s holiday.” He rode a double-decker bus with Livingstone, viewed a hybrid taxi and visited a police control room, where he saw the original “Ring of Steel” in action.
City of London Police Superintendent Alex Robertson said the surveillance system to monitor every vehicle that enters the square-mile financial districtknown as the City of Londonwas pioneered to combat Irish Republican Army (IRA) terrorism.
Bloomberg didn’t mention that his “phantom tollbooth” plan for New York City was rejected by the state legislature this year. He wanted to charge commercial vehicles, like the pickup trucks used by many small businesses, $21 a day to drive below 86th Street in Manhattan weekdays between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., and automobiles $8. It didn’t fly the first time because of the vocal public opposition.
Now Bloomberg must persuade both New York’s City Council and the state legislature to back his plan, which he calls “congestion planning.”
The Daily News said the billionaire Bloomberg, who has another home in London’s posh Chelsea neighborhood, said he expected to spend more time there once he leaves office.
For some New Yorkersand many gunowners around the United StatesBloomberg’s retirement can’t come soon enough. His is in his second and last term now. (New York City has terms limits.)
During his visit, Bloomberg was getting a demonstration of the ring of steel, a system of cameras and road barriers introduced during the years of IRA bombings to protect London’s central business district.
London has one of the world’s highest concentrations of surveillance cameras, according to Associated Press. An estimated 4 million CCTV cameras operate in Britain, and some civil liberties campaigners have warned the country is becoming a “surveillance state.”
New York has far fewer, but the number is growing. Authorities hope to implement an $81.5 million version of the ring of steel for lower Manhattan, featuring surveillance cameras as well as barriers that could automatically block streets.
That kind of money would do a lot for the NYPD staffing as well as for a speedier justice system.
But that’s not the point. What Bloomberg, Livingston and much of the media ignored during his London visit was a story in London’s Evening Standard newspaper published just a few days before Bloomberg’s horn-blowing.
That story noted that despite tens of thousands of CCTV cameras, 80% of crimes in London go unsolved.
London has 10,000 crime-fighting CCTV cameras which cost £200 million (about $400 million US), figures showed in September, The Evening Standard reported.
But an analysis of the publicly funded spy network, which is owned and controlled by local authorities and Transport for London, has cast doubt on its ability to help solve crime.
A comparison of the number of cameras in each London borough with the proportion of crimes solved there found that police are no more likely to catch offenders in areas with hundreds of cameras than in those with hardly any.
In fact, four out of five of the boroughs with the most cameras have a record of solving crime that is below average.
The figures were obtained by the Liberal Democrats on the London Assembly using the Freedom of Information Act, The Evening Standard reported.
Dee Doocey, the Lib-Dems’ policing spokeswoman, said: “These figures suggest there is no link between a high number of CCTV cameras and a better crime clear-up rate.
“We have estimated that CCTV cameras have cost the taxpayer in the region of £200 million in the last 10 years but it’s not entirely clear if some of that money would not have been better spent on police officers.
“Although CCTV has its place, it is not the only solution in preventing or detecting crime.
“Too often calls for CCTV cameras come as a knee-jerk reaction. It is time we engaged in an open debate about the role of cameras in London today.”
The Evening Standard said the figures show:
- There are now 10,524 CCTV cameras in 32 London boroughs funded with Home Office grants totaling about £200 million.
- Hackney (borough) has the most cameras1,484and has a better-than-average clear-up rate of 22.2%.
- Wandsworth has 993 cameras, Tower Hamlets, 824, Greenwich, 747 and Lewisham 730, but police in all four boroughs fail to reach the average 21% crime clear-up rate for London.
- By contrast, boroughs such as Kensington and Chelsea, Sutton and Waltham Forest have fewer than 100 cameras each yet they still have clear-up rates of around 20%.
- Police in Sutton have one of the highest clear-ups with 25%.
- Brent police have the highest clear-up rate, with 25.9% of crimes solved in 2006-07, even though the borough has only 164 cameras.
The figures appear to confirm earlier studies which have thrown doubt on the effectiveness of CCTV cameras, The Evening Standard concluded.
But that won’t stop Bloomberg. Like London’s failed gun control policy, New York must follow the Brits.
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