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In NJ, Higher Tech Lowers Crime 219

Posted by kdawson
from the can-you-say-false-positive dept.
crimeandpunishment sends along this snip from an AP story carried on Skunkpost.com: "High tech means low crime in a New Jersey city that has used an arsenal of advanced technology to sharply lower one of the highest crime rates in the nation. And now East Orange is poised to become the first city in the country to take high tech crime fighting to a whole new level ... surveillance cameras with sensors that can be programmed to identify crimes as they unfold."
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In NJ, Higher Tech Lowers Crime

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  • This is clearly a well thought-out plan. Why, what could possibly go wrong?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RobertM1968 (951074)

      This is clearly a well thought-out plan. Why, what could possibly go wrong?

      In this day and age, it doesnt really matter how well thought out such a plan is when it involves information or people. There are always those who have the ability to and will abuse any system. Does that mean we should stop all innovation because of those who will abuse them? Or that instead we should weigh the potential for abuse against the potential for good in determining what to do with such ideas? Or plan in as many safety measures and punishments as possible to prevent abuse?

      I know your (possibly

      • Now... if the system sent automated drones out to deal with everything it thought was a crime... that would be a different story.

        Yes it would, and it's called RoboCop [imdb.com] ;-)

        • Robocop is still partly human. Particularly, most of the brain.

          The problems always started when they tried making something that was just a machine.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by icebraining (1313345)

        We don't need to look for ways on how this could go wrong - the constant surveillance is wrong by itself.

        • by irtza (893217)
          How about the high violent crime rate? The fact that people don't stop at lights out of fear? Those are most definitely not wrong. Its better to let robbers have their victims kneel at the corner of the street and be executed than to have a surveillance system.

          What people feel is wrong about the surveillance system is the potential for abuse - and their is tons of it, but we don't live in a world where people go down the street holding hands while skipping and singing songs. The very reason people fea
          • Re:Done! (Score:4, Informative)

            by icebraining (1313345) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @09:51PM (#32636304) Homepage

            How about the high violent crime rate? The fact that people don't stop at lights out of fear? Those are most definitely not wrong. Its better to let robbers have their victims kneel at the corner of the street and be executed than to have a surveillance system.

            Surveillance is not the only way to fight crime. In fact, London has shown that it even isn't especially effective.
            And while the whole NJ murder rate have dropped nearly 25% [newjerseynewsroom.com], that wasn't due to CCTVs, but by "conducting intelligence-led, high-impact investigations targeting the command structures".

            Did it ever occur that if surveillance was open and all video was available to all people that it may actually prove beneficial?

            Yes, not only I can be spied by the cops, but by everyone else!

            By the way, maybe having "about 15.9% of families and 19.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 24.7% of those under age 18" is a good reason for the high crime rates. It's better to attack the causes instead of the consequences.

            • by irtza (893217)

              WEll, that was my point. You can be spied on by everyone else - it takes out part of the corruption issue. If the camera's are open, it reduces peoples ability to hide the truth - which may not be such a bad thing.

              Sure, criminals can use it to know when you are out of the house, but you will be able to catch them when they break in!... wait... ok fine, you win.

              • by TheLink (130905)
                I'd be fine with it as long as the system also records of "who is watching what and when", and also makes those records available for easy public read-only access.
          • How about the high violent crime rate? The fact that people don't stop at lights out of fear? Those are most definitely not wrong. Its better to let robbers have their victims kneel at the corner of the street and be executed than to have a surveillance system.

            Would you think the same if you lived in NAZI Germany, the Soviet Union, or Iran today?

            Did it ever occur that if surveillance was open and all video was available to all people that it may actually prove beneficial?

            And stalkers would love it too. Ins

      • "if the system sent automated drones out to deal with everything it thought was a crime..."

        Talking to the "human" cops around here is very much like that.
        If a 911 call got you a "competent professional", OTOH...

      • Re:Done! (Score:5, Informative)

        by falconwolf (725481) <falconsoaring_20 ... minus herbivore> on Sunday June 20, 2010 @10:25PM (#32636522)

        As this system leaves in the human factor for actually deciding if an action is necessary (ie: sending cops), and then leaves the cops deciding what actions to take, it doesnt seem any more open for abuse than the current surveillance system in place.

        Except that you left something out, the system is partially paid for with forfeitures. The more forfeiture the bigger the system can be made. We've already been having problems with law enforcement forfeitures. "For example, between 1989 and 1992 [jrank.org], the Sheriff's Office in Volusia County, Florida, seized $8 million in cash in roadside stops of motorists. Although the office returned about half of the money in settlements, it still retained $4 million over the three-year period." Today Texas police seize black motorists' cash, cars [chicagotribune.com]. Or Asset Forfeiture: Austin Police Use of Seized Funds Probed [stopthedrugwar.org]. Law enforcement makes a lot of money from forfeitures [cato.org].

        Falcon

    • And on the voters who voted for this crud. Surveillance will be abused for political gain and really thats the only reason any of these politicians care to lower the crime rate. You don't see any of these politicians trying to create jobs as a way to lower the crime rate bu they don't mind building prisons and putting cameras everywhere?

    • Yea, I bet the Gestapo and MVD or Ministry of Internal Affairs [wikipedia.org] would have loved it.

      Why, what could possibly go wrong?

      Loss of freedom.

      Falcon

  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @06:58PM (#32635434)
    What we really need in NJ are cameras that can be programmed to identify political corruption as it unfolds. Oh wait, we already have them, they're called 'regular cameras pointed at our politicians'.
  • While there are proponents and doubters for such systems, real world application and testing of these technologies are probably the only way to improve them. Is it a waste of money, as some detractors claim? I wish I knew. Perhaps analyzing the crime statistics and costs related to them in contrast to the monies spent would give a clearer picture. Then there's the factor of "a life saved... is priceless" - in which such systems (the existing one, and the "smart" one) may be crucial in saving someone's life;

    • You know how many people gave their lives to create that freedom? Now we should throw all that away to save *one*....?

  • As in the UK (Score:5, Informative)

    by wilfie (622159) * <wilf@linuxmail. o r g> on Sunday June 20, 2010 @06:59PM (#32635448) Homepage
    A the most watched nation on earth, we're familiar with this path in the UK. Expect issues, as seen at http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/jun/17/birmingham-stops-spy-cameras-project [guardian.co.uk]
  • Wrong reason? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mathinker (909784) * on Sunday June 20, 2010 @07:07PM (#32635488) Journal

    From TFA:

    The results have been startling: Violent crime in East Orange has fallen by more than two-thirds since 2003, according to state police statistics.

    ...

    Jose Cordero was hired as East Orange's police director in 2004 after overseeing the New York Police Department's anti-gang efforts. Crime in East Orange had dropped off after the crack epidemic of the 1980s and 90s but then rose dramatically in the early 2000s as gangs began to put down roots.

    It seems more likely to me that Cordero himself is the reason for falling crime rate rather than any high tech stuff (which just tends to move crime to other locations). I'm suspicious because, for example, in the UK where there is massive investment in surveillance cameras, my understanding is that they have found that they are mainly useful for providing evidence for prosecuting the criminals after the fact, and even that is only in something less than 25% of the cases.

    • by elucido (870205) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @08:00PM (#32635824)

      Lowering the violence rate, lowering specific types of crime which have victims may make us safer. Lowering the "crime rate." usually raises the incarceration rate which often lowers the income of families making them even more desperate and likely to commit crimes in the future.

      Lowering the crime rate is a way to increase the incarceration rate and win political points. It's not going to make anyone safer to for example make massive arrests of drug possession, or to arrest thousands of prostitutes, but thats usually the kind of crime they go after because it's easier. They'll probably go arrest a bunch of small time pot dealers, and crackheads, maybe some prostitutes, and say they lowered the crime rate in the city.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 20, 2010 @09:20PM (#32636168)

        As a criminologist I have to say this interpretation of the relationship between crime and incarceration is... well... not supported by the evidence. The relationship between incarceration rates and crime rates is loose at best and this has been demonstrated both in cross national studies and in longitudinal studies of the United States and other western nations. For example, in the United States incarceration rates have risen dramatically and consistently in the last 40 years while crime rates have fluctuated considerably. The factor that has the biggest impact on the incarceration rate is actually changes in sentencing strategies. Changes in sentencing strategies are often only loosely related to crime rates, if at all, however.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Whether a lowering of the crime rate corresponds to an increase in safety depends on which crimes are being reduced, of course, but typically a reduction in crime rate corresponds to a reduction in violent and property crimes.

        Now, padding arrest rates with drug possession/prostitution arrests may be political posturing, but arrest rate is not the same as crime rate.

        • by elucido (870205)

          Whether a lowering of the crime rate corresponds to an increase in safety depends on which crimes are being reduced, of course, but typically a reduction in crime rate corresponds to a reduction in violent and property crimes.

          Now, padding arrest rates with drug possession/prostitution arrests may be political posturing, but arrest rate is not the same as crime rate.

          So tell me what exactly is the "crime rate"?

          If it's not measured or correlated with the arrest rate, is it the conviction rate? How do we measure the crime rate?

    • Re:Wrong reason? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by martin-boundary (547041) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @08:39PM (#32635992)
      It's arbitrary to pick a time interval and compute the change in the crime rate from it. Why pick 2003 as the starting time? Why not 2000, or even 1980? Those kinds of soundbytes are great for politics, but not so good for true understanding.

      At the very least, a plot of the data as a curve over all the years that are available _should_ be expected.

  • This is dangerous. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Luke has no name (1423139) <fox@@@cyberfoxfire...com> on Sunday June 20, 2010 @07:07PM (#32635492)

    Besides the oft-quoted Ben Franklin line, I do believe giving a government too much power in watching the populace is dangerous for liberty. Should the legitimate need arise to break a law or subvert the government, corrupt individuals will have power to stop people even more easily.

    On the fliip side, the ubiquity of increased surveillance available to the PUBLIC as well as to the government (they are two different things) might prevent the government from getting away with the shit it does now.

    I have to throw in a quote: "With great power comes great responsibillity." I don't think the government has enough of the latter to justify the amount of the former it possesses.

    • by Jeremi (14640) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @07:27PM (#32635632) Homepage

      Should the legitimate need arise to break a law or subvert the government, corrupt individuals will have power to stop people even more easily.

      Indeed... I think there is an opportunity here to design systems that are resistant to government misuse.

      For example, imagine a system where the standard "camera on every street corner" has limited or no networking capability, and only records an encrypted record of what it sees/hears to local storage in a 48-hour loop. Such a camera wouldn't help police catch criminals in the act, of course, but after a crime had been committed, the police could go and physically retrieve the storage unit from the camera(s) at the scene of the crime as evidence. The police would need to get a search warrant that included the decryption key for the storage units, otherwise the data would do them no good even if they surreptitiously gathered the physical drives.

      Something like that might make improper use of the surveillance footage more difficult, and therefore less likely.

      • This type of surveillance technology wont catch a sophisticated white collar criminal. This technology wont catch organized criminal mafias. It wont catch anyone but the dumbest criminals. This is designed to win political points by making the neighborhood look like it's safe when it really is more dangerous than ever. The police get to look like they are doing their job when they arrest hundreds of prostitutes and thousands of drug dealers. This technology is not going to stop any of the gangs, mafias, or

  • by shashark (836922) * on Sunday June 20, 2010 @07:15PM (#32635556)

    So I lived in the mission area of SF for a while earlier this year. This place was bad - post the 21st street or so. A friend of mine was mugged & beaten badly at 24th and Mission (where Bart is) at 9 in the evening.

    Last year they started installing cameras all around (very visible effort - you could see cameras all around you) - and the crime rate (atleast the mugging rate) went down immediately. Everyone here agrees that the drop in crime can be attributed to the street cameras. This opinion is also shared by business & hotel owners whom I know and meet.

    I do think nothing can improve Tenderloin though.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      Surveillance tech will eventually improve and become useful. Because it is primitive now is no reason to give up on it. The goal of total battlefield awareness is valid for any battlefield.

      • by Entropius (188861)

        The fact that law enforcement treats the arena in which they work as a battlefield means that they have already failed.

        Law enforcement should not be a war.

    • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @07:58PM (#32635812)

      Last year they started installing cameras all around (very visible effort - you could see cameras all around you) - and the crime rate (atleast the mugging rate) went down immediately.

      As I recall from the reports in England and other places that have done the same thing an initial drop in crime is common. But unless there are other efforts made to keep crime low, the effect wears off and crime rates return to nearly the same levels. My impression from what I read is that it's due to the novelty wearing off and to the criminals realizing a camera can't arrest them or stop them or really do anything until long after they've left the scene. Especially if the camera feeds aren't even monitored in real time - which is apparently where the interest in having the cameras recognize when a crime being committed comes from, so they can alert a human in real-time. I say good luck with that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 20, 2010 @07:29PM (#32635648)

    They are actually charging users with much higher crimes by adding up all of their purchases. I've had friends that have been charged with their entire years worth of purchases in a single case.

    Rather than charging on a single offense for purchasing a small quantity of heroin in Jersey City. They are waiting until the charge can be trumped up to 6 months of their use. So instead of being charged with purchasing a single gram (bundle)... they are being charged with purchasing 400grams over the course of 6 months to a year, bringing long prison sentences to habitual users.

    The high charges are definitely a deterrent for users, though I hardly think these charges are justified.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by couchslug (175151)

      Solution, don't buy in the first place. No means no.

      BTW, I favor handing out free smack and other substances which don't cause behavior problems.

      The problem with heroin is that people steal to get money to buy it. They have every right to destroy themselves.

    • by Urza9814 (883915)

      The high charges are definitely a deterrent for users, though I hardly think these charges are justified.

      They are definitely not. I would imagine when the law was created it was assumed that someone busted buying a single gram has probably bought several in the past. It sounds like they're now giving small time users the punishments that were originally designed for heavy dealers.

    • I am an SVU cop posting to Slashdot from work right now. I am currently recording a man raping a woman in a dark alley. This is his fifth victim that we know of. We're not going to move in until he's gotten to 20, or until he stops.

  • by elucido (870205) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @07:49PM (#32635756)

    The incarceration rate is more important to me than the "crime rate." Are there more people in prison as a result of the high technology, or are less people in prison? Just because we become more efficient at catching criminals it doesn't mean society is safer, it all depends on what we consider to be a crime at the time and how we sentence it. The technology doesn't really help one way or the other unless we have sane laws.

  • Real high tech would be identifying crimes before they unfold. :P

  • Crime Forcasting? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by adosch (1397357) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @08:27PM (#32635944)

    Can't wait until the next time I am in New Jersey and do the "did I forget my wallet in my car?" pat-down in public, I will probably be sitting in the county jail overnight on suspicion of mugging.

    I'm glad to see someone throwing out an out-of-the-box idea on how to prevent or neutralize crimes before they actually happen, but now instead of dealing with a crime after it's been committed, you get to watch it unfold while it's happening. Perhaps a bit more video evidence to look at on law enforcements side, but what does this do for Joe Americana and their privacy rights? You know this network is going to get used for more than it's initial intention. Unfortunately, bad apples spoil the whole pie sometimes and no one wins.

  • by AHuxley (892839) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @08:37PM (#32635988) Homepage Journal
    How do you detect a gun shot cheaply and with triangulation?
    Could it be via a cheap device called a microphone? Strange how its now "gunshot detection" like its some optical device.
    If they can listen for gun shots, they can listen for voices and create a nice 'part time' state voice print database.
    Welcome back to COINTELPRO version 2.0 down every large street.
    • by hedwards (940851)
      Not necessarily, gunshots are loud, I mean really loud. Gun shots are typically in the range of 140-180 decibels depending upon the particular weapon. Speech being about 60 decibels at 1 meter, you can sort of see the extreme difference in noise levels. If you're having to turn it up to hear voices you're going to get a huge amount of static and have a difficult time distinguishing what anybody is saying.
  • No problem (Score:5, Funny)

    by istartedi (132515) on Sunday June 20, 2010 @10:22PM (#32636504) Journal

    No problem. If it violates our rights, it'll recognize that as a crime in progress, and turn itself off.

  • The sensors, which work in concert with surveillance cameras, are designed to spot potential crimes by recognizing specific behavior: Someone raising fist at another person, for example, or a car slowing down as it nears a man walking on a deserted street late at night. Each new crime recorded is programmed into the database.

    High fives and stopping to talk to a friend on the roadside are now potential crimes?

  • Footage analysis software seems to be getting very well tuned. There was some footage of the riots after the Lakers game that was released to the press not long after it was shot (about 30-60 minutes after the recorded incident). The released still retained the "trouble spots" that were much lighter than the surrounding areas. The footage was urban night footage of a LARGE crowd. Dispite all of the "noise" in the crowd, the highlighted area instantly drew focus to exactly what needed to be paid attentio

  • by beh (4759) * on Monday June 21, 2010 @02:31AM (#32637642)

    ...that 25years ago, we all saw that the surveillance states of the Eastern block were an abomination not worthy of a free society...

    Now, we create surveillance society V2.0 here in the west...

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