Four days ago, two small bombs were detonated in front of the British Consulate at 845 Third Avenue in Manhattan. Since no one else has done so, we feel compelled to point out two small but important facts concerning this highly publicized attack:
1. Despite the fact that this area is filled with surveillance cameras -- 36 in the immediate vicinity, that is, according to the New York Police Department (NYPD) -- the presence of all these cameras did not deter the attacker(s) from detonating these bombs; and
2. Despite the fact that the NYPD gained access to the videotapes recorded by these cameras, and had the footage "enhanced" by specialists at the FBI, not one of them captured the attacker(s) or the attack itself.
And so we are confronted by the absolute failure of these cameras to do their jobs, that is, deter crime and, failing to do that, record evidence of criminal activity so that the perpetrator(s) can be identified and prosecuted. But, where the video surveillance of public places is concerned, the bombing of the British Consulate isn't an exception. It is in fact the rule: video surveillance is useless when it comes to protecting people's safety. We are sure that we need not remind our fellow New Yorkers that video surveillance was also useless when it came to preventing or even capturing evidence of the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11th.
And yet there will surely be those who will claim that the complete failure of video surveillance in this instance isn't a good reason to take the cameras down but is, instead, a good reason to install even more cameras. To us, such calls wouldn't only be illogical; they would also be irresponsible. The only way to insure our safety is to take the money wasted on this high-tech gadgetry and spend it on hiring more police officers and security guards, or giving more money and training to the existing ranks of cops and guards, who could very well have either prevented or witnessed the attack, that is, had they been stationed at the consulate in the middle of the night.
-- Surveillance Camera Players, 9 May 2005.
By e-mail SCP@notbored.org
By snail mail: SCP c/o NOT BORED! POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998