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Eye In the Sky For City Crime Fighting

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the lawn-forcement-panopticon dept.

Privacy 389

Tiger4 writes "The mayor of the City of Lancaster in the Antelope Valley of southern California is considering a high-definition video flying platform to aid in crime fighting. The aircraft, would circle the city constantly, able to zoom in on activity spots instantly. 'You never know when you are being watched or followed. It would be stupid to commit a crime. You see it with such detail,' said Mayor R. Rex Parris, who took a ride last week in a camera-equipped airplane with pilot Dick Rutan. 'I have every hope that Lancaster will be the first city to deploy it. I've never been so excited about anything.' Dick Rutan is the same pilot who flew around the world non-stop in the Voyager, custom built by his brother Burt Rutan at Scaled Composites in Mojave." The aircraft is nothing special, a garden-variety Cessna or the like, but "the camera is an example of technology developed for and used by the military making a transition to civilian applications, Rutan said."

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Next step (5, Funny)

redcaboodle (622288) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648741)

Outlaw roofs.

Re:Next step (4, Interesting)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648799)

Why, with the right type of camera, you can see right through them.

Btw, could someone tag the story "bluethunder"? I can't seem to add tags.

Re:Next step (5, Insightful)

siloko (1133863) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649051)

Well Blue Thunder was an ostensibly civilian undertaking which sort of suggests you agree with the quoted sentiment:

The camera is an example of technology developed for and used by the military making a transition to civilian applications

I disagree however. Once government's start using military surveillance techniques on it's citizenry they are no longer a civilian government's but precursors to a police state. And the guys excited about it . . . I'm not sure whether thats scary or disgusting!

Re:Next step (1)

Jhon (241832) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649207)

I disagree however. Once government's start using military surveillance techniques on it's citizenry they are no longer a civilian government's but precursors to a police state. And the guys excited about it . . . I'm not sure whether thats scary or disgusting!

I disagree. Just because the military does something doesn't necessarily mean it's a precursor to a police state. We've had sky cams for years -- the only thing different is the quality of the camera.

If something takes place in public, I don't think there's any violation of here. If they put a camera in the sky that can "see" through walls, or bounce lasers off our home windows to "hear" what's going on inside WITHOUT a warrant and trust me, I'll grab the pitchfork, you grab the torch.

Re:Next step (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28649401)

I can see it now...

An army composed of nerds, otakus, and /b/ (since we all know /b/ defies classification) joining forces to defeat the US Army.

what could possibly go wrong?

Re:Next step (5, Insightful)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649425)

Well, let's see, so far citizens are unanimously in favor of:
  • Automated Speed Cameras
  • Red Light Cameras
  • Neighborhood Cameras (ala UK)
  • Cameras in the classrooms of elementary schools

Well, sure, I'm guessing we'll all be embracing the next logical step in govt. surveillance!! The all seeing HD eye in the sky.

Wait, did I forget my [sarcasm] tag??

Sadly, there will be a decent number of people that will go for this. More and more these days a saying I heard awhile back is even more pertinent:

What one generation tolerates, the next generation embraces.

Re:Next step (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28648857)

Exactly. Like the stupid laws pertaining to tinted windows in cars.

Re:Next step (5, Insightful)

N3Roaster (888781) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648877)

The new fashion accessory that every criminal thug just has to have: an umbrella.

Re:Next step (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649097)

The new fashion accessory that every criminal thug just has to have: an umbrella.

Oh, I'm betting these cameras will be using FLIR [wikipedia.org] . I believe an umbrella would be completely transparent to that.

In TFA it indicates that they spotted a traffic accident based on the heat of the vehicles and then focused in on the picture.

Your brolly might as well be saran wrap.

Cheers

Re:Next step (1)

Shaltenn (1031884) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649323)

It's interesting that you should mention that, as the FLIR article you linked on Wikipedia notes that "the use of a thermal imaging device from a public vantage point to monitor the radiation of heat from a person's home was a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, and thus required a warrant"(Kyllo v. United States [wikipedia.org] ).
So are they planning to completely ignore that, use a different kind of technology (which I think would still probably be not-quite-right by the spirit of that court ruling), or just haven't realized how blatantly stupid it is yet?

Re:Next step (1)

localman57 (1340533) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649141)

Great. Like I didn't stand out enough already wearing this tin-foil hat. Now I have to carry an umbrella in good weather?

In a world where umbrellas are outlawed... (2, Funny)

SoVeryTired (967875) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649179)

only outlaws will have umbrellas.

Re:Next step (1)

furby076 (1461805) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648999)

This is nothing new. Police helicopters + cameras have been around for decades. THis guy is excited because instead of analog (vhs) tapes which are grainy and don't do well when trying to enlarge a picture they are not using digital technology which is easier to mainpulate.

Privacy concerns from eyes in the sky were settled decades ago.

watch this!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28648743)

first post, assholes!

Anyone... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28648755)

going to offer a reward to the first person to shoot the damn thing down?

Re:Anyone... (5, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648853)

going to offer a reward to the first person to shoot the damn thing down?

Ask your friendly neighborhood drug lord.

The next version of the plane is then going to be armed with 20mm cannons. Why just watch crime when you can stop it dead?

Re:Anyone... (2, Insightful)

localman57 (1340533) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649095)

Awesome. The local private pilots are gonna love it when their Cessna 172's start being shot at for no apparent reason.

Re:Anyone... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28649151)

Awesome. The local private pilots are gonna love it when their Cessna 172's start being shot at for no apparent reason.

"Your aircraft has been impounded. Your next of kin has 30 minutes to remove your cube."

Re:Anyone... (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649317)

Actually it is pretty dang hard to shoot down a Cessna 172 with the type of hardware your local drug lord can get a hold of.
Think about it. It will probably be flying at around 1000 feet. It will also probably not right over your head. So the slant range is going to be pretty long. Next it will be flying at around 100 MPH.
So unless you get something better than your average gun odds are you will not hit one without a lot of luck.
That and I would think anybody standing around pointing a gun at the sky letting off a lot of rounds is going to attract a lot of attention.

Now if you got a nut job geek then maybe they could build a DIY anti-aircraft gun but I think even that would tend to attract a lot of attention.

Whoa, they invented the maintenance-free plane? (4, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648775)

Or how else is this thing going to circle the city constantly if they only have one?

Seriously, though, the whole idea is wrong on so many levels it's not funny anymore. Privacy aside, couldn't they at least use a platform that's better suited to long-term surveillance, such as a small (drone-sized), unmanned airship?

Re:Whoa, they invented the maintenance-free plane? (5, Insightful)

Akido37 (1473009) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648837)

It's like those cities with cameras everywhere, except some of the camera boxes don't even contain a camera.

For the system to work, it doesn't actually have to record every crime. It only has to deter people from committing crimes out of fear that they MAY be recorded.

That said, I think that constant surveillance will be the end of our republic.

Re:Whoa, they invented the maintenance-free plane? (1)

show me altoids (1183399) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649285)

FTFA:

It would be stupid to commit a crime.

As opposed to all the geniuses robbing 7-11s now.

Re:Whoa, they invented the maintenance-free plane? (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649343)

The problem with this is the same as the stretch of the Garden State Parkway that says "speed monitored by aircraft" - if you see aircraft in the sky, slow down.

Otherwise, the road earns the nickname I've given it - Garden State Speedway.

Re:Whoa, they invented the maintenance-free plane? (1)

cellurl (906920) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649429)

This is a steady erosion [slashdot.org] of our rights, we all know that.

What are YOU going to do about it?
What can we get 10% of slashdot users to do? Seriously, all we do [me too] is bitch. Let write this F*cker.
I am sending a letter tonight to his boss. Please send a letter:

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
Tell him Mayor R. Rex Parris has taken accountability for the citizens with this airplane program. You hereby expect protection and hold him accountable for the protection of the citizens. You should be allowed to sue the city for crime. This should be a change in the states constitution to allow suing a city based on promise of protection.

Re:Whoa, they invented the maintenance-free plane? (1)

eldaria (1051866) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649451)

Well in London they have Cameras everywhere and they actually look at them, however the crime rate has not gone down. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7384843.stm [bbc.co.uk]

Re:Whoa, they invented the maintenance-free plane? (2, Informative)

cmdrkynes (1582503) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648839)

There is no way they can really afford to keep a small jet airplane in the air just circling for hours... That is thousands of dollars a day worth of fuel.

Re:Whoa, they invented the maintenance-free plane? (3, Interesting)

mraudigy (1193551) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649219)

The average Cessna plane consume between 5 to 9 gallons of fuel per hour. With an rough estimate fuel price of $5.25/gallon in the SW region, a "surveillance" plane that flys 24/7 would cost:

$5.25 * 7 = $36.75/hr.
$36.75 * 24 = $882/day.
$882 * 365 = $321,930/year.

As such...
Cessna Surveillance Plan: $125,000
1 year of fuel: $321,930
Killing both privacy, the economy, and the budget is one fell swoop: Priceless.

Re:Whoa, they invented the maintenance-free plane? (0)

selven (1556643) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648897)

I would use hundreds of airships floating around the city, so you get a clearer view of everything (with a single camera once the ground distance is beyond 2 or 3 times the camera's height you can't see behind buildings at all). You can also paint them blue to make them less obvious.

Re:Whoa, they invented the maintenance-free plane? (2, Informative)

furby076 (1461805) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648977)

Privacy outside of a building is not constitutionally mandated. Walking on the street? Anyone can take pictures of you - media, gov't, private citizens and you have zero privacy claims. There is no expectation of privacy when you leave the protection of a building.

There were some issues, in the past, with aerial photos of people in their backyard which had walls (and obviously no ceilings). I don't recall what the ruling was but I think it was ruled that if there is no roof there is no expectation of privacy....so you may want to make sure your drug deals are done within 5 enclosed walls :)

Re:Whoa, they invented the maintenance-free plane? (5, Interesting)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649029)

Privacy outside of a building is not constitutionally mandated. Walking on the street? Anyone can take pictures of you - media, gov't, private citizens and you have zero privacy claims. There is no expectation of privacy when you leave the protection of a building.

But as soon as an individual points a camera at this aircraft, you can bet that police will be telling them they're not allowed to do it, that they must delete the photos, or arresting them on some terrorism charge (at least, that's what would happen in the UK).

It's as if objects, buildings and so on have more of an expectation of privacy than individuals do...

Re:Whoa, they invented the maintenance-free plane? (3, Insightful)

furby076 (1461805) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649423)

But as soon as an individual points a camera at this aircraft, you can bet that police will be telling them they're not allowed to do it, that they must delete the photos, or arresting them on some terrorism charge (at least, that's what would happen in the UK). It's as if objects, buildings and so on have more of an expectation of privacy than individuals do...

Not sure why your post would be marked insightful since it is pure speculation. There are valid concerns with top secret items and the gov't not wanting you to take pictures of them. For example if the gov't came out with a new plane that had some new, awesome and secret technology it makes sense they don't want you taking a picture of it. This technology is nothing new...it's been featured in games, tv shows, and hell is just a combination of technology that's been around for decades with some relatively new technology (HD TV).

Feel free to take all the pictures you want of this aircraft...once the military sells something to civies it loses it's top secret status.

BTW this technology amounts to an RC airplane + HD cam corder + a transmitter of the cam corder. I'd imagine someone here on /. could make said device...it may not be as good as what these cops will have - then again they have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on professional gear - but it will do the same thing.

Re:Whoa, they invented the maintenance-free plane? (1)

aynoknman (1071612) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649313)

I don't recall what the ruling was but I think it was ruled that if there is no roof there is no expectation of privacy....so you may want to make sure your drug deals are done within 5 enclosed walls :)

They better be tin-foil walls as well, given the creep (both senses of the word ) of surveillance into our lives.

Re:Whoa, they invented the maintenance-free plane? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649125)

Privacy aside, couldn't they at least use a platform that's better suited to long-term surveillance, such as a small (drone-sized), unmanned airship?

From TFA ...

At first, Rutan looked into deploying the camera on an unmanned aircraft to patrol the city's skies, but that proved to be too expensive and faced too many difficulties with Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

Using a conventional small plane "solves all kinds of problems," Rutan said. "It's a lot cheaper to have a pilot on board than a drone."

Cheers

Re:Whoa, they invented the maintenance-free plane? (1)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649131)

Not only that, but c'mon, this is Kalifornia we're talking about. They're operating at a huge deficit. This type of stuff is stupid, and explains exactly why Cali is in this situation to begin with.

I've never seen a state so intent on "protecting" their citizens from themselves like California. It's sad.

(I spent 5 years in California, I love the state itself, it's a wonderful place, but damn, those folks are cutting off their noses to spite their face, I swear)

Re:Whoa, they invented the maintenance-free plane? (1)

evilkasper (1292798) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649309)

Not to mention that its pretty much proven that surveillance equipment does not prevent crime. Look at all the black and white footage from security cameras you can find. When he mentions it would be stupid to commit a crime.... I have to wonder if he has any knowledge of the types of crimes this is supposed to prevent and the criminals that commit them.

i for one (1)

nimbius (983462) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648811)

welcome our new all seeing, all knowing skyball overlord and hope it resembles the comforting familiarity of "the walking eye"

Prisoner of the state. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28649139)

The Panopticon: [wikipedia.org] The Panopticon is a type of prison building designed by English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in 1785. The concept of the design is to allow an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) prisoners without the prisoners being able to tell whether they are being watched.

Re:i for one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28649307)

welcome our new all seeing, all knowing skyball overlord and hope it resembles the comforting familiarity of "the walking eye"

(And from a different AC, here's a more recent cultural reference.)

Judas Priest did it 27 years ago.

Up here in space, I'm looking down on you,
My lasers trace - everything you do.
You think you've private lives, you've nothing of the kind,
There is no true escape, I'm watching all the time,

I'm made of metal,
My circuits gleam,
I am perpetual,
I keep the country clean...

- Electric Eye [youtube.com] , 1982's Screaming for Vengeance

My generation's adolescent dystopian cybermetal fantasies are now the daily news. Don't even get me started on how about 2/3 of the Max Headroom episodes have also become nonfiction.

Remember... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28648821)

Big Brother is watching you, but the asshole can fly now.

It was a matter of time. (1)

techwrench (586424) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648833)

It was a matter of time before this technology trickled down to Law Enforcement.

Re:It was a matter of time. (2, Insightful)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648911)

Just remember what else trickled down. Drone aircraft for military use were originally unarmed, observation only craft. When they started mounting Hellfires and 25 mm cannon, there were a few debates about the legal niceties, but it basically just happened.

And criminals... (4, Insightful)

radtea (464814) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648841)

...never do anything stupid, so the Mayor pointing out "It would be stupid to commit a crime" is a really excellent example of how compelling the case is for using this sort of surveillance technology.

If politicians and police were honest about this they'd be doing a controlled experiment on these deployments, putting out these systems in ways that varied both in space and time that allowed them to determine whether these things had any effect on quality of life amongst the citizens, which is the metric that matters.

Instead, they are content to make stuff up, and the average person is so relentlessly anti-empirical that they have no idea what they are missing.

Re:And criminals... (5, Insightful)

WindowlessView (703773) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648949)

so the Mayor pointing out "It would be stupid to commit a crime"

If this is true, then why are government officials so reluctant to have their own activities monitored? Why do law enforcement get so edgy about being filmed? Why are cameras not allowed in most court rooms? Why aren't public officials monitored all day long? It just stops crime, after all.

Re:And criminals... (3, Insightful)

nyctopterus (717502) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649221)

I get your point--especially about law enforcement, but you need to recognise than "government" isn't a monolith. Many government officials and employees don't want the crazy surveillance of other people either.

Re:And criminals... (5, Interesting)

hacker (14635) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649241)

If this is true, then why are government officials so reluctant to have their own activities monitored? Why do law enforcement get so edgy about being filmed? Why are cameras not allowed in most court rooms? Why aren't public officials monitored all day long? It just stops crime, after all.

You bring up a very interesting point. What if the flying-camera-drone catches some police abuse on civilians, or some other egregious violation of human or civil rights? Do we, as civilians, have the right to request the footage of that incident at that time? After all OUR money paid for this plan, the pilot's salary, the camera, the fuel and everything else related to putting that object in the air. Does the FOIA [state.gov] cover this too?

Re:And criminals... (4, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649297)

What if the flying-camera-drone catches some police abuse on civilians, or some other egregious violation of human or civil rights? Do we, as civilians, have the right to request the footage of that incident at that time?

Oh, you certainly have all the right in the world to request the footage of the incident, which will do you a whole lot of good if the tape has been "misplaced" or just doesn't exist because the camera had a "glitch" just when it happened. *winkwink*

Re:And criminals... (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649443)

Why do law enforcement get so edgy about being filmed? Why are cameras not allowed in most court rooms? Why aren't public officials monitored all day long? It just stops crime, after all.

its time to start a new movement.

repeat after me:

no more double standards!

for each and every law, it must first be tested on public officials and those who are usually above the law. there must be no double-standard. if the citizenry is to be surveiled, the 'watchers' must first be. they must be first so we can see if this 'great idea' works.

if they object, well, it would end there and no citizen needs to have his rights trampled on.

NO MORE DOUBLE STANDARDS.

every law must apply (perhaps even stronger?) to public servants and officials.

otherwise, you know you are being taken advantage of.

Politicians do this shit to look relevant (1)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648965)

Politicians do this shit to look relevant. So that at re-election time they can go: "see, see. We are all better off because of what *I* did."

Meanwhile cities can't even figure how to save money on the boring stuff. (printing double sided, prevent duplication of work, retuning wrongly ordered stuff to vendors, selling instead of trashing old assets...)

bad idea + bad idea (3, Insightful)

RingDev (879105) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648873)

The camera is an example of technology developed for and used by the military making a transition to civilian applications, Rutan said."

When you have the Military controling civilian security, the civilians become the enemy. This would normally just be a gross overstepping of the government, but to use it as a "transition" for EASing military is just crazy. Things are different in the Military. The rules, norms and expectations are completely different. You can't just take an MP out of the fleet, give him a badge and a gun, and expect him to take a squad car around the block with out incident.

-Rick

Re:bad idea + bad idea (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28649103)

When I was on guard duty in the Marine Corps, I was given the following instructions:

If you see someone attempting a crime, or entering a secure area, you will give ONE and ONLY one order to halt.

If the individual does not halt, you will fire one warning shot, directly at center of mass.

If the warning shot does not cause the person to halt, you will fire at him until he halts.

For unarmed posts, they told you to call a "react" if you saw anything out of the ordinary. What's a react, you say? When you call a react, the guard shack hands everyone currently on duty an M-16 and a loaded magazine, they all pile into a humvee and haul ass to your location, then they all jump out, aim, and give the order to halt.

Disobey the order, and they ALL fire a warning shot.

I'm not exaggerating, either. There's a reason nobody screws around on a Marine Corps base.

Re:bad idea + bad idea (1)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649113)

I know there are plenty of examples throughout history where the military has quelled it's own populace, but I would like to think that US troops would hopefully be above that. I never understood this mentality, the one where the people you're protecting aboard are all the sudden worthless and you should beat the crap out of them, or worse, slaughter them. I'm sure someone has researched it fully, but honestly, I don't get it.

I served for 5 years in the Marine Corps, and obviously I was never faced with this situation, but I would hope that I would see through the B.S. and refuse unlawful orders that asked me to harm the civilian populace. (defending yourself from attack is another situation though.)

Re:bad idea + bad idea (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649185)

I know there are plenty of examples throughout history where the military has quelled it's own populace, but I would like to think that US troops would hopefully be above that.

In most of these examples, the populace probably also thought that their troops were above that, or they wouldn't have done things that required them to be quelled.

Re:bad idea + bad idea (1)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649281)

Yeah, I know. That's why I said "I would like to think" instead of something else.

You never know.

Re:bad idea + bad idea (1)

jimbobborg (128330) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649441)

Tienanmen Square comes to mind.

Re:bad idea + bad idea (1)

mspohr (589790) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649421)

US soldiers are not above firing on US citizens. One well known incident is known as 'Kent State'... there are others.

Re:bad idea + bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28649187)

This tech, like many before it, is moving from military to civil. It is not controlled by the military.

Re:bad idea + bad idea (2, Informative)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649377)

When you have the Military controling civilian security, the civilians become the enemy...You can't just take an MP out of the fleet, give him a badge and a gun, and expect him to take a squad car around the block with out incident.

We've been militarizing ordinary police work for the past few decades, since the Reagan era [reason.com] . It's part of the general trend of the militarization of society pushed by authoritarian neoconservatives.

City of Lancaster? (4, Funny)

funkatron (912521) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648875)

For a moment I thought I knew where that was. Are there any place names America didn't steal?

Re:City of Lancaster? (1)

Whomp-Ass (135351) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649075)

Off the top of my head I can think of only one: A middling-small-to-medium town in Ohio named Elyria, named after the Ely family. Asiding that, I think they're all rip-offs.

Re:City of Lancaster? (1)

DefenseEngineer (1277030) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649133)

Honolulu

Re:City of Lancaster? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28649327)

Honolulu

We didn't steal the place name, we stole the state [wikipedia.org]

Re:City of Lancaster? (1)

laughing_badger (628416) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649293)

Upper Piddle and Lower Piddle are still unique to us in England. Not sure why...

Also Old Sodbury and Slack Bottom.

Re:City of Lancaster? (1)

clickety6 (141178) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649299)

Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg

Re:City of Lancaster? (1)

martas (1439879) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649373)

New York isn't stolen. The British just went back in time and made a city called York to make it seem like it was stolen.

Worst idea ever (4, Insightful)

moogied (1175879) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648889)

Criminals rarely think "Gee... I sure hope no one sees me do this!" they think "Gee... I sure hope I can get the hell away from the scene before a cop gets me.". Having something floating around would require several things to actually work:

1. Someone to know the crime is happening and thus record it, send cops over, and prevent it.
2. No blind spots(good luck on a roaming platform. Last I checked, buildings still are 3d and thus will cause blind spots.
3. The criminals not to take the most basic of all precautions to hide there identity(sky masks aren't exactly hard to make or buy.).

So, in conclusion, it looks like some dumb ass company built this device and decided to market it to whatever sucker they could find. World keeps on turning.

Re:Worst idea ever (1)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649045)

> So, in conclusion, it looks like some dumb ass company built this device and decided to market it to whatever sucker
> they could find. World keeps on turning.

And, once again, the government are the suckers. There is little incentive for them not to be, it only costs them our money.

I actually emailed the guy working on the "Ferret" the robot to sit in cargo containers and look for drugs/explosives etc.

You know he never had considered the possibility that such a sensitive detector would have a lot of false positives because... packages packaged by drug users are shipped far more often than packages of drugs. But hey, when someone asks you to make a robot to do X, how many engineers will step back and ask "Are you SURE X is what you want to do?"

-Steve

Agreed. (4, Interesting)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648909)

I wholeheartedly agree. On the condition that the loop includes a trip above the Mayor's house and that all video feeds are released to the public.

Re:Agreed. (1)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649169)

On the condition that the loop includes a trip above the Mayor's house and that all video feeds are released to the public.

Even if it doesn't, I'm sure some concerned citizen(s) could implement some round-the-clock monitoring of him and his family. That way, he will "never know when he is being watched or followed. It would be stupid for him to have a mistress, for his kids to buy drugs, or for any member of his family to do anything that might offend [voting group X]'s sensibilities." It's for the protection of the public--which justifies anything nowadays, or so I hear--and people in power are in a unique position to defraud or embarrass the public.

Useful big brother or foggy day crime spike ? (1, Insightful)

what about (730877) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648913)

This surely is big brother watching you.
How do you know who is the "guard dog" watching ?
Who is in power is surely willing to keep it and it will use all means available.
Get ready to long shot videos or images of possibly "strange" situation being broadcastet to destroy a political opponent.
(Hey, look, your candidate was walking on a notoriously gay road !!!! he was talking to a possible drug dealer !!!!)
Of course any plausible reason for doing it will be seen as irrelevant.

Talking about the bad guy, he just needs a mask or a foggy day to have a coverup, not so difficult.

The end result seems negative in many ways to me, I would rather have more COPS on patrol than a flyng spy on the sky.

Well, well. (1, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648921)

I'm not really sure that this is a "transition of technology from military to civilian application" as much as it is a militarization of a historically civilian function. Sure, if you look at the org charts, police are not military, nor have they changed much; but if you look at hardware and tactics there does seem to be a trend. The enthusiasm for using SWAT teams in all sorts of crazy places, at considerable peril to those ostensibly being protected and served, random little podunk county sheriffs picking up APCs, now aerial surveillance mechanisms...

Luckily, the police are not at all confused [radgeek.com] about their role...

Re:Well, well. (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648963)

The enthusiasm for using SWAT teams in all sorts of crazy places,

Yes. Let's put a paratrooper SWAT team on those planes, for all the crimes than the onboard armament can't handle.

I've never been so excited about anything (1, Funny)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648925)

This politician obviously doesn't get out much.

Re:I've never been so excited about anything (1)

wandazulu (265281) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649067)

They commit all their crimes inside, so spies flying around outside can't see them.

Stupid is as stupid does (1)

NonUniqueNickname (1459477) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648927)

It would be stupid to commit a crime.

It would be stupid to spell Paris with two R's. And Rex Paris is a stupid name, don't you know what happened to the last king in Paris? Stupid's sticking power doesn't come from logic, au contraire, stupid defies logic.

Why Lancaster? (1)

whoda (569082) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648933)

It's a city with a giant Southern Baptist college and a bunch of farmhands.
Nothing happens there.

Re:Why Lancaster? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28649183)

It's a city with a giant Southern Baptist college and a bunch of farmhands.

It's a conspiracy by the Baptists to ensure the farmhands aren't dancing.

Re:Why Lancaster? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28649271)

They can implement it there with minimal fuss from the public, which means it'll be acceptable in NYC within ten years.

Time to take out the old laser... (0)

selven (1556643) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648937)

I wonder how hard it would be to shoot these things out of the sky.

Re:Time to take out the old laser... (1)

Duradin (1261418) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649059)

Just start a building or two on fire upwind of where you'll be committing your crime. You could draw the camera's attention off to that area or failing that provide a smokescreen that renders the surveillance useless.

Re:Time to take out the old laser... (1)

The Last Gunslinger (827632) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649175)

My thought was lower-tech...a moderate caliber, high-powered rifle would do the job nicely. I'm thinking .30-06, which should work well on traffic enforcement cameras, too.

Not a very "green" approach (1)

glaese (1238130) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648955)

Wouldn't it make more sense to use some sort of stationary balloon based platforms? Seems logical to start off that way at least.

Solution: Move. (1, Insightful)

quangdog (1002624) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648975)

When a company does something stupid or draconian, I take my business elsewhere.

If the city I lived in started doing this, I'd move and take my tax revenue with me (paltry as it may be).

Interesting sidenote: This morning on the way to work I heard on the radio that California is in even bigger financial trouble now: Banks are no longer honoring the state tax refund IOU's, student grants are no longer being paid, people on all sorts of state-run social welfare programs are no longer receiving the assistance they are used to, etc.

Why don't we hear of more people fleeing the state in droves? I've never lived in CA, but if I did the decision to move would be a simple one. The state government is bankrupt, and now they want to monitor me from the sky in hi-def all the time.

All of them (1)

AbbyNormal (216235) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648985)

Yep...Lets monitor all 145,074 [wikipedia.org] of them at one time. Oh wait.

Kinda funny that this concept was first described for a prison [wikipedia.org] .

Oh well. I sure hope that the residents enjoying paying their taxes for this, considering that a lot of the big banks in CA are not accepting CA IOU's [wsj.com] anymore.

Just because you can doesn't mean you should (1)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | more than 5 years ago | (#28648989)

Is crime so bad in Lancaster that people are willing to be monitored constantly? Do they really find the expense of operating such a system worthwhile? Is it a better use of funds than giving raises to teachers, improving roads, reducing sales tax, offering a college scholarship program, or any of the countless other good things that could be done with the money?

Who makes sure this system is used responsibly, and not for the mayor to see what his wife does while he's at work, or to see how often his opponent heads to the local bar?

Big brother (1, Insightful)

7-Vodka (195504) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649017)

You never know when you are being watched or followed. It would be stupid to commit a crime.

When people in positions of authority start talking this way watch out because here comes big brother.

Fuck, I'm dissapointed in this half-hearted scheme. Why don't you just skip to the endgame and implant every one of your citizens with mood-altering gps tracking chips that transmit constant video and sound feeds of whatever they're seeing and hearing? I'll put money on the table that when the technology for that exists, there will be people in power who want to do it and general public who won't fight it.

I wish we could just hurry up and split species so that those who don't care can turn into HG Wells-like eloitards.

On another note, it doesn't matter that it's a plane, other cities like NY already use those and they're attached to blimps. So I'm sorry to tell this silly mayor that he won't be the first.

Oblig. Judas Priest (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28649019)

Heat seeking (1)

Synkronos (789022) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649033)

From the linked article: "During the demonstration flight, the system was used to observe a car accident, a city announcement said. The camera detected the collision due to the heat produced by the vehicles, and within seconds focused on the area and provided a clear picture of all vehicles and people in the area."

Wait, what? So, light a fire somewhere far away from where you're going to commit the crime, and the camera will detect the heat and look away? What are the exact specs of this system anyway?

Who votes for idiot politicians? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28649147)

Constantly circling aircraft to carry video camera to fight crime? Isn't this the same California, which is spectacularly bankrupt already?
Do American voters really want to turn the USA a complete police state? Do they have any idea what are they doing? Why don't they read some books about existing or previous police states before they agree to create one for themselves voluntarily?

Trying to counter irrational acts, rationally (4, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649201)

Criminals don't think "oooh here comes the crime fighting plane - I don't think I'll mug that little old lady "

They either plan around it (unlikely) or commit impulsive acts when the opportunity arises. They also don't always commit their crimes out-doors, or in cloud-free weather. They also don't ever expect to get caught (if they did, that would be a deterrent - it isn't).. So while keeping a plane in the air (and presumably a control room staffed, to watch the spy cameras) and a mechanic on standby to refule it and maintain it, might sound like a good idea - and may even impress the voters the chances of it reducing crime are small.

Luckily for the mayor, it's impossible to correlate one act of crime prevention with any movement in the crime statistics, so whatever happens (short of someone stealing the plane), he, she or it will be able to call the initiative a success.

I do have a feeling though, that this plan was not exactly thought out. Any sale to a gullible official - who isn't spending their own cash yet comes out with statements like "I've never been so excited about anything" sounds like exuberance has got the better over common sense. I would expect that the money earmarked for this plan would be far better spent on orthodox police patrols: more officers, more man-hours and maybe even a few public awareness campaigns. Not as sexy, but far more effective.

Stupid to commit a crime? (3, Informative)

bazorg (911295) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649213)

It takes someone stupid to commit a crime? maybe someone with motivations that are hard to understand... Just yesterday on BBC3 we had interviews with 14-18 year old thugs who were really keen on their "street cred", their "reputation", the robbing and stabbing of other kids who ventured into their post code, and the appeal these activities have when looking for a girlfriend.

Not one seemed so keen on going to school or on avoiding the police. Actually, going to prison was part of the networking with other thugs and the reputation building. So yes, there could be an investment of millions on cameras that can even see through the £5 hooded clothes but I don't think it will be much of a deterrent.

It should already be (1, Insightful)

HalAtWork (926717) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649227)

"It would be stupid to commit a crime."

It should already be stupid to commit a crime. This guy seems to think that criminals don't believe laws are logical and beneficial. If they are committing a crime, they have already decided they don't care about that. A lot of crimes ARE stupid and are committed without regard to logic or consequence. This guy seems to think criminals will suddenly start thinking twice.

Look, you can't PREVENT crimes. Even if you have a camera, you'll only just be watching one already in progress. And if a criminal is worried about the camera, he will probably shoot it down. With an unlicensed weapon, no doubt. Way to go.

California? (1)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649239)

I guess the whole state isn't on the verge of bankruptcy. Or do they think they can reduce the size of their police force enough to make up the difference?

I actually may like this idea... (1)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649291)

If it could reduce the number of cops running around with attitudes. In general our police forces have become way too big, and bored cops develope attitudes. Of course this likely won't happen and our taxes will go up to support this.

What is it about cities named Lancaster? (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649311)

I want to know what it is about cities named Lancaster that leads them to think that monitoring everyone's activities is a good idea? A couple of weeks ago we had a story about Lancaster, Pa having the most cameras per capita monitoring for crime and now we have Lancaster, Ca putting an eye in the sky.

first reference to Orwell (3, Insightful)

rs232 (849320) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649333)

"There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment [george-orwell.org] . How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live -- did live, from habit that became instinct -- in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized"

Orwell was an optimist. (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649379)

except in darkness, every movement scrutinized"

Or maybe he just didn't anticipate IR cameras.

fallout (2, Insightful)

zogger (617870) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649351)

If the video feed was open to the public, it wouldn't be long before there would be clips of the mayor's butt crack showing up on youtube, as he bent over to work in his garden, or the city council folks walking their dogs and letting them take a dump on neighbor's lawns, or local fatcat businessmen passed out drunk in their back yards, all the local cop cars on patrol making illegal left turns at stoplights, etc.

The spy in the sky program would end pronto then.

East & West Coast Lancasters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28649361)

does it strike anyone else as odd that two of the more "big brother" cities in America recently are both named Lancaster (PA & CA)?

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/local/pa/20090706_Plenty_of_cameras_monitor_55_000_Lancaster_residents.html

Privacy? (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 5 years ago | (#28649409)

So now what I do in my lawn is not considered privacy anymore? Great.
Even though I disagree with people who say "If you are in public, people should be able to film you at all times." I understand their point.

Now a camera pointing down will be able to see what I am doing in my back garden that has a very high fence around it. What if the camera films at an angle?

Well, at least people are innocent until proven guilty, but it is best to do your hardest to prove them guilty.

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