A tech exec by the name of Chris Larsen wants to install high-def security cameras all around San Fransisco to help battle the city’s crime. He thinks that’s a good idea.
Nellie Bowles spoke to him for the New York Times:
In San Francisco, where many locals push for this kind of police reform, those same locals are tired of the break-ins. So how do they reconcile “defund the police” with “stop the smash and grabs”?
Mr. Larsen believes he has the answer: Put security cameras in the hands of neighborhood groups. Put them everywhere. He’s happy to pay for it.
There are countless reasons to have a problem with this. Pointing out that Nextdoor – a decentralised social media platform for communities – is a cesspit of racism, fear mongering, and profiling is the most glib.
There’s no reason to think that pervasive surveillance in the hands of “neighbourhood groups” won’t be the same.
Unfortunately, Bowles’s article doesn’t engage with any of the potential pitfalls in Larsen’s plan outside of privacy concerns. The whole thing reads more like a puff piece or an ad than a measured assessment of something that would affect the lives of everyone in the city, if Larsen follows through with his idea.
He argued that trust [with law enforcement] will come in the form of full city camera coverage, so police can play a smaller, more subtle role. Individual vigilantism will not work, he argued, but strong neighborhoods with continuous video feeds on every corner will.
“That’s the winning formula,” Mr. Larsen said. “Pure coverage.”
Police do need to play a smaller role in people’s lives. But they need to be replaced with well-funded support structures, like mental health facilities, safe injecting rooms and drug rehabilitation groups, and all the other things that make up a robust safety net. That’s how you restore trust in local communities.
Pervasive surveillance isn’t a sign of trust. Nor is it a path to it. We won’t build a healthy community by watching each other all of the time.
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