This article was originally published on Humorality, on May 10, 2010.
Watchers Willingly Watch the Watchers
In recent years, many larger cities have placed security cameras at key intersections in an effort to increase public safety, eliminate crime, and reduce the burden of large rainy-day funds. Police have found a welcome friend in the images captured by these electronic eyeballs. But with each solved crime comes an increase in threats against the cameras. The US Department of Justice is expanding the Federal Witness Protection Program to prevent some of the most tattle-telling cameras from being busted into a million pieces, or worse.
“These hardworking lenses have helped crack some of the most notorious crimes in modern history,” said Jack Steekey, head of the new Surveillance Surveillance Program. “Their films and tapes mean the difference between some crook heading to jail or letting them walk free. Protecting the telephoto lenses of these all-seeing devices is an honor.”
While the cameras and their hard-disk storage units await trail, the program places them in safe locations where they can’t be intimidated or harmed. They are given new names, new jobs, a new chance at a life of safety. “We just placed a New York street camera in a protected Midwest location. It’s working as a security camera in a retail store, watching merchandise, something really low key and hidden,” said Steekey.
Not everyone is happy with the results. “I got stuck on traffic duty,” said a CCTV camera who wished to keep his model number anonymous. “I was told I’d be protected from the creep I helped put away for twenty years to life. And then I end up snapping license places for everyone going 45-plus in a 35. I’ve been whacked over the head probably 300 times. Sure, I’ve got immunity from prosecution, but am I safe?”
Then there are the failures, the dead cameras and busted hard disks that the protection community doesn’t like to talk about. Officials in the Justice Department refused to divulge any numbers, but some industry experts estimate that as many as five hundred cameras per year are found by those they sought to bring to justice. Still others give up hope, opting for shuttercide instead of constantly trying to hide in a world where 2-megapixels means so little.
Despite these hardships, Steekey calls their efforts a success. “In the end it’s all about making sure everyone in all fifty states enjoys the freedoms they hold so dear. These heroic cameras are simply upholding the American ideal of spying on the general population. What could be more freedom-loving than that?”