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Houston Expands Downtown Surveillance, Unsure If It Helps

timothy posted about 10 months ago | from the someone-is-getting-fat-on-this dept.

Crime 60

SpaceGhost writes "The Associated Press reports that the Houston (Texas) Police will be adding 180 surveillance cameras in the downtown area, bringing the total to close to 1000. While most cover public areas (stadiums, theater district) the police suggest that Houston also has more 'critical infrastructure' (energy companies) than other cities. Interestingly AP points out that 'Officials say data is not kept to determine if the cameras are driving down crime.' Didn't London face the same issue?"

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TSOP TSRIF (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45790571)

For inquiring rhetoric, stay there. People obviously stopped thinking.

Houston, We Have a Problem... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45790633)

If they're not keeping data for tracking crime rates, then what is the point?

Re:Houston, We Have a Problem... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45790781)

Because you can't get kickbacks if you don't spend money...

Re:Houston, We Have a Problem... (4, Insightful)

mevets (322601) | about 10 months ago | (#45790819)

The point is to sell surveillance equipment; have you been asleep for a decade?
The invested parties - police, politicians, journalists, arms dealers and church leaders all have a problem: Crime is on a long decreasing trend, and nobody knows why!
The police, to justify monstrous budgets, love surveillance gear. On the odd occasion it is useful for something other than catching shady cops, it makes for great TV. Great TV makes for proud citizens; and easy budget cycles. Journalists love great footage, so they can collect paycheques without working for it.
Politicians love police (from a certain distance) since they lend a sheen of goodness to their creepy incompetence.

This makes for easy pickings for the surveillance industry to sell boatloads of worthless crap to incompetents who have been trusted with your money. The last thing they need is some bearded hippy pointing out that it is all a scam.

Re:Houston, We Have a Problem... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45790909)

A woman I fucked went to school in England, and she told me this story about how she was talking to a cop about the surveillance cameras and the cop told her that it's not like the movies where there are guys watching 20 monitors at all times, in fact the cops rarely monitor the cameras at all. They only use them after an incident happened, when they rewind and then look over the past footage for evidence.

And damn, I miss that girl -- I wanted to breed with her to a level so deep that it goes down to the DNA of it, our bodies intertwined like the spiral helices of our merging genetic material.

-- Ethanol-fueled

Re:Houston, We Have a Problem... (3, Interesting)

ArhcAngel (247594) | about 10 months ago | (#45791285)

I suspect it is part of the settlement [chron.com] with the company that got screwed when Houstonians said no to red light cameras AFTER the city implemented them without asking the citizens if they wanted them.

Re:Houston, We Have a Problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45791505)

I live in Montana. Back when those companies first started sniffing around trying to get Cities to install them, we just banned the things State-Wide. Nipped that bullshit right in the bud.

Re:Houston, We Have a Problem... (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 10 months ago | (#45793875)

HPD is fucking worthless. Those pigs could give a rats ass if your shit is stolen. Short of a murder happening, they'll tell you to grab a xeroxed copy of a form, fill it out, and place it into the bin. No doubt makes it easy to toss into the shredder at the end of the day. And that's on a good day. Normally, a COP will just give you a WTF look at which point you might be arrested for wasting their time.

You're better of dealing with a Sheriff or State Trooper. Those guys are easy to deal with. Most have been friendly to me. COPs however, no way.

Re: Houston, We Have a Problem... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45796653)

Agreed. I've called HPD three times since I moved to Houston - once for a burglary that had happened in the previous 20 minutes, once for a possible crime in progress, and once for an emergency in progress. They did not send anyone to investigate any of the incidents. In the case of the burglary, a smartphone was taken that had its location tracker activated. After a couple hours, the thief turned on the phone and I obtained an address, with the GPS error bubble smaller than the house on the map. HPD refused to take the address or a screenshot of the map with GPS error bubble, despite the fact that a credit card stolen in the same burglary had been used at a gas station two blocks away from that house. HPD is a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Re:Houston, We Have a Problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45791321)

The bad guys will shift the location of crimes as well as the types of crimes they commit. If they are not cracking skulls in the business districts due to better law enforcement they will do home invasions in the suburbs. The data therefore may not reflect at all the actuality of criminal events,
                                This is similar to the child molester not being allowed to live next door to you. The problem is that molesters usually do not molest near their dwelling as they know the cops would get them really easily. therefore the molester drives several miles to do his thing and your child is far safer if the creep did live next door.
What's a victim to do?

Re:Houston, We Have a Problem... (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 10 months ago | (#45792837)

it's not for catching criminals who thought ahead..

the main purpose is to catch people who committed oppurtunistic crimes, like beating up a rival gangster or someone who was playing knockdown or to find out who drove over the old granny.

and most crime is like that. what, you think droppants gangstas really think ahead?? if they did, then they would be running investment scams.

Re: Houston, We Have a Problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45795537)

We do know why, we just dont want to admit it. Since the rise of widely available birth control and legalization of abortion, the number of unwanted pregnancies has gone way down, and the crime rate with it.

I've seen numbers to justify the costs... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45795827)

I work for a technology integrator who's major focus is on physical security. My specialty is designing, engineering. deploying, and maintaining robust surveillance systems. While HPD might not have numbers to show progress, our local police do. We maintain a surveillance system in my city (population approximately 150k) of about 150 cameras, all connected via wireless mesh network. I have seen the statistics and I can tell you without a doubt that crime has gone down steadily since deploying our surveillance system. I know of numerous murders that were solved this year alone solely because of the system that we installed. There is also one specific abduction that was solved specifically because of video that was obtained through our cameras.

While the HPD may not have staff actively watching the cameras, that is not the case in my city. The 911 call center here has approximately 5 large monitors where the cameras are displayed and monitored 24/7. They have the ability to view an area of interest the second a crime/fire/emergency of any sorts is called in. This can provide critical insight to a cop/fireman/EMS that is headed to the area of interest.

On the flip side, I see the shitty job that most company's do when designing and installing a surveillance system. The large majority of the time, there are cameras down, servers failing, and network issues. Also, the majority of the users are not trained properly and definitely can not use these systems to their full potential.

I just wanted to point out that there are some huge upsides to deploying city wide surveillance systems, assuming it is done correctly at least.

Re:Houston, We Have a Problem... (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 10 months ago | (#45790881)

They're hoping to get a "Person of Interest" spinoff set in Houston.

Re:Houston, We Have a Problem... (2)

bonehead (6382) | about 10 months ago | (#45791109)

Because preventing crime isn't the purpose of the cameras. That's just the sales pitch that's trotted out to get the public to accept their presence.

Re:Houston, We Have a Problem... (0)

Dishevel (1105119) | about 10 months ago | (#45791515)

If they're not keeping data for tracking crime rates, then what is the point?

Ha, Ha, Ha! Oh goodness. You really have no idea how governments work. Do you?

Penis (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45790661)

Penis smoke the wenis

wasn't of it.. (2)

kcmastrpc (2818817) | about 10 months ago | (#45790679)

but apparently criminals still commit crimes when other people can witness it.

Re:wasn't of it.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45791401)

Exactly.

The "particular demographic" (there now, that wasn't too racist was it?) responsible for the overwhelming vast majority of crimes in the downtown Houston area really don't give a flying fuck if they're on video or not. If they get caught, they know it's just a short hassle until they're right back out on the streets to lather/rinse/repeat all over again. They're going to continue doing the same criminal behaviours until somebody shoots them (cops/victims/fellow gangstas/don't really matter who) to put a stop to them, and then a new one simply takes the place of the deceased in short order to begin the cycle all again.

Oh, and one piece of advice I can personally give: Don't walk around downtown Houston, day or night, carrying anything less than .45 auto. And carry a spare mag with you too.

Might be for interesting research (3, Insightful)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about 10 months ago | (#45790697)

But I'm sure they'd never tie the data in to the "voluntary" DNA swabbing [nbcdfw.com] done last month.

Re:Might be for interesting research (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45792195)

Well I dont even know why they bother with the cameras in the UK. The one thing the police dont want to be involved in is normal ' crime. They cant solve it and it makes their clean up figure look bad any thing that involves fines they can keep is a different matter.

Report your house broken into you will just be given a crime number for the insurance forms. Try reporting a fraud, you will be told like I was a) its not a crime ,b) they dont deal with it here followed by ring this number if you insist.

A friend of mine was attacked on public transport and was set alight. They showed up 5 days later to take a statement because it was still outstanding and ruining their figures for that week.

Well... (3, Interesting)

beh (4759) | about 10 months ago | (#45790731)

'Officials say data is not kept to determine if the cameras are driving down crime.'

It seems to me, that if there _WERE_ concrete evidence of crime being reduced, they _WOULD_ keep data.

If the cities would collect data, that does NOT show a drop in crime, then city officials might be criticized for the whole operation... ...without the data - it's hard to nail them down on it...

Re:Well... (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 10 months ago | (#45790795)

If the cities would collect data, that does NOT show a drop in crime, then city officials might be criticized for the whole operation... ...without the data - it's hard to nail them down on it...

Or c) Almost all crimes are a matter of public record in the United States. Them not releasing statistics doesn't really mean anything. Black and white thinking: It'll screw you every time.

Re:Well... (2)

s.petry (762400) | about 10 months ago | (#45790973)

Well, if they are not keeping record of how the person was originally reported C would be of no relevance. Kind of like when an Anonymous person calls the cops because of a suspicious guy taking money from people in cars and returning small baggies, the cops may or may not enter that as evidence. In many cases they don't because it's of no value to the case.

In the case of all these cameras however, the public should be demanding to know how much impact it has since they are paying for it. It's quite possible they didn't know that the program existed, or the extent of the program. Look at how Seattle reacted. (Link [dailydot.com] to Seattle issue just in case.)

Re:Well... (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 10 months ago | (#45791181)

Kind of like when an Anonymous person calls the cops because of a suspicious guy taking money from people in cars and returning small baggies, the cops may or may not enter that as evidence. In many cases they don't because it's of no value to the case.

That's an incredibly stupid thing to say. Police tend to enter into the record what they considered probable cause. "Anonymous" phone calls... in this day and age? Pretty amusing. But even if you were right... there'd still be a record of the call, and that would be part of the criminal complaint.

You clearly don't understand how the justice system works. They document and record everything.

Re:Well... (1)

s.petry (762400) | about 10 months ago | (#45791311)

Maybe in your world police record everything, but I have worked with (not for) police and law enforcement for decades. Will their training tell them they should record everything? Yeah, but what we are told to do and what works in reality are normally two different things.

Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45790841)

It seems to me, that if there _WERE_ concrete evidence of crime being reduced, they _WOULD_ keep data.

So just to make things clear, you are implying that they _ARE_ collecting the data, finding that it does _NOT_ provide evidence of crime being reduced, and are thus _DESTROYING_ that data in order to _CLAIM_ that they do not keep data?

Re:Well... (2)

Scutter (18425) | about 10 months ago | (#45790859)

If they collect data on it, then it could possibly be used to prove that the cameras don't deter crime. Then people might start to complain about pesky things like "civil liberties" and "privacy" and "freedom". If they don't collect the data at all, then detractors have no way to argue against it.

Re:Well... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45792013)

shipping all the niggers back to africa is what will deter crime. do that and nobody will want cameras ever again. FACT! i don't care that you think that sounds terrible. it is a FACT! check the crime stats yourself baby. oh and black on black crime is the most common kind there is so spare me your liberal drivel. oh yeah and almost all interracial crime is a black criminal and a white victim so again cut the bleedingheart "poor downtrodden negro" bullshit. some of you will never learn until some thug wannabe nigger menaces YOU personally. hope it never happens but you see my point.

Re:Well... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45793725)

The prison niggers, Tyrone and da crew jus got out an agree.

Rite now we have yo daughter on all 4s givin' us head wile tyrone shoves his cock up her tight little ass hole.

Oh we gonna keep dis one for da new year.

Signed,
Da Prison Niggers

Shame on you. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45796333)

You're not supposed to say that the Emperor's New Clothes aren't real and that he's actually stark raving naked.
You'll get you head chopped off for that.
And it looks like you did.

Re:Well... (1)

dkman (863999) | about 10 months ago | (#45791071)

Do the meeting minutes look something like this:

Scenario: We have this proposal to spend lots of taxpayer dollars putting cameras up.
Side note: I didn't read the article, but I assume this comes with a monthly expense to monitor the footage.
Official: Do we have any information for or against putting these cameras up?
Person: No.
Official: Would we have any numbers to tell whether the cameras do any good?
Person: No, but you own stock in the company.
Official: Well then put up some cameras.

Re:Well... (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 10 months ago | (#45791345)

I'm intrigued, what sort of "data" would conclusively show that cameras do/don't reduce crime? How would you account for other factors such as unemployment?

Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45791533)

I'm intrigued, what sort of "data" would conclusively show that cameras do/don't reduce crime? How would you account for other factors such as unemployment?

wikipedia.org/wiki/Probability_and_statistics

Wouldn't it be more relevant (1)

idobi (820896) | about 10 months ago | (#45790741)

to tie the cameras to the ability to close cases as opposed to a deterrent for crime?

Re:Wouldn't it be more relevant (1)

matthewv789 (1803086) | about 10 months ago | (#45791243)

Why? Is it a goal of society to put even more people behind bars? I don't know about you, but I'd rather have fewer criminal cases to prosecute in the first place.

Re:Wouldn't it be more relevant (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 10 months ago | (#45791447)

I'd rather have fewer criminal cases to prosecute in the first place

Here in Oz they are seen as a deterrent, the police themselves will tell you. They can't make a drunk act responsibly but they can intervene faster in the case of a drunken brawl. the people they deter are sober trouble-makers, bag-snatchers, etc, these people simply shift there operations away from the cameras.

Re:Wouldn't it be more relevant (1)

zippthorne (748122) | about 10 months ago | (#45793583)

In a sane society, we can close cases with appropriate remedies rather than just locking everyone up for everything. It's far better for a criminal to be caught at a crime and have some kind of negative feedback than to rely on poor enforcement to make sure the people getting away with it combined with the people sent to crime college for a few years averages to a just level....

"Let's spend million$ and not track usefulness"? (1)

DutchUncle (826473) | about 10 months ago | (#45790775)

People argue about pennies spent on school lunches, but can't be bothered to track millions spent on surveillance? Numerous cities, especially New York, have demonstrated that contemporaneous analysis of data, and general analysis of trends and patterns, can make a big difference in incidents. (We all think tech is cool in a Tom Clancy novel, or a military operation; why not for police?)

Re:"Let's spend million$ and not track usefulness" (1)

nbauman (624611) | about 10 months ago | (#45790919)

People argue about pennies spent on school lunches, but can't be bothered to track millions spent on surveillance? Numerous cities, especially New York, have demonstrated that contemporaneous analysis of data, and general analysis of trends and patterns, can make a big difference in incidents.

Are you talking about CompStat? Where have they proven that?

Re:"Let's spend million$ and not track usefulness" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45790975)

(We all think tech is cool in a Tom Clancy novel, or a military operation; why not for police?)

Because in real life, the government is run by imperfect, corrupt humans who will not hesitate to abuse any powers you give them. Mass surveillance of public places is simply not a good idea.

Who watches them (1)

GezusK (449864) | about 10 months ago | (#45790807)

Unless you have personnel watching these cameras 24/7, then you're not going to prevent anything. Cameras don't prevent crimes, they just help after the fact. Our school systems has installed hundreds of cameras under the guise of student safety. But only a few people view them, and not even constantly. So they're not going to prevent a school shooting, or any other crime. Perhaps it'll help catch some vandals or theft, but it seems that most shooters kill themselves anyways.

Re:Who watches them (1, Insightful)

minstrelmike (1602771) | about 10 months ago | (#45790875)

24/7 monitoring doesn't happen.

While some folks are terrified/paranoid about NSA monitoring, the real story is there are two types of monitoring.
One is the real-time monitoring that google does. That's all keyword based so when I type in an e-mail about guitars, I get served up ads for guitars or music shops or something. That's the _evidence_ that people use to say the NSA is watching our every move. Except google isn't watching anybody in particular, they are just serving up ads based on typed words

The other type of monitoring occurs _after_ a crime happens, That's when the cops grab all the video evidence they can. The Steubenville rape case investigation occurred _after_ the crime. And here's the key point. It takes 10 to 100 investigators to examines all the texts and e-mails (or videos) gathered.
The paranoid conflate those two into this all-seeing, all-encompassing "They're watching everybody all the time."
They aren't. They can't.
Economics still rules. I can serve up specific ads without paying attention to everything the same way a therapist can pinpoint key phrases and say "Tell me more" without actually listening 100% of the time. When I do want to follow someone in real-time full-time, it takes an entire squad.

Re:Who watches them (3, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 10 months ago | (#45791449)

The paranoid conflate those two into this all-seeing, all-encompassing "They're watching everybody all the time."

The realists know that because of the inexorable march of technology the two are converging. For example, automatic license plate readers which didn't exist when license plates were made a legal requirement are now so widespread that nearly every repoman has one on his dashboard feeding a centralized and permanent database. [nytimes.com]

Re:Who watches them (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 10 months ago | (#45791869)

Hey, this is a police state. I don't like that political stance about defunding my program. Let's dig through the archives and see if we can tie them to any unsolved crimes, or see when they're out and about to "discover" if this dope we've got was actually at their place all along...

You're aware COINTELPRO is a thing right? [wikipedia.org]

I'm a scientist, if you say spying is beneficial, then I say prove it. If you say, "well we can't because, secrecy", then I call bullshit - You have to provide evidence and refute the null hypothesis: Programs holding secrets can not be proven to be beneficial for society. Any benefit to security the secret programs could present can just as easily be seen as a detriment. You can't trust spies, trust must be earned. If we're rolling out more spying hardware now it's to quickly cash out supplies before the public outlaws secrets.

Govs want to spy on everything? Fine, then let us know EVERYTHING they're doing. It's the only way to prove they're not breaking the damn law, again. They want to study how to improve ciphers and hashes, etc? Fine, do it in the public. We can't even accept recommendations from the NSA because any "improvements" they suggest could be introducing weakness. Bonus: If you don't have any government secrets, spies can't harm you.

As a scientist it pains me to exist in this world divorced from skepticism. "It's good!" "It's harmless!" That's what they all say. Talk is cheap, show me the evidence.

Re:Who watches them (4, Insightful)

jonbryce (703250) | about 10 months ago | (#45790969)

The idea is that that criminals will see the cameras and decide not to commit the crime because there is too much risk of being caught.

What happens in the UK is that hooded tops, baseball caps and scarves became a very popular fashion choice, so that the cameras can't see who you are.

Re:Who watches them (1)

msauve (701917) | about 10 months ago | (#45791199)

"The idea is that that criminals will see the cameras and decide not to commit the crime because there is too much risk of being caught."

Then making a random 90% of them cheap boxes with an LED and fake lens would suffice.

downtown Houston isn't energy infrastructure (1)

Trepidity (597) | about 10 months ago | (#45790813)

An Exxon office building is not really "critical infrastructure". The Houston area does have some plants that could produce nasty results if someone did something nefarious to them, but they aren't located where these cameras are being put in (and have their own security, anyway).

Helps a contractor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45790827)

This was also as issue with Fort Bloomburg. Many of the cameras that NY spent millions of tax dollars on do not work becuase they were broken or stolen soon after being installed. The NYPD treats the agency that is charged with monitoring the cameras asa dumping ground so of course what cameras are working are not used to much of their potential.

REMEMBER ALAN FUNT ?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45790833)

Smile !! You are on Candid Camera !!

Not the In Color ones !!

Houston vies with NSA for "most onerous" title. (2)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about 10 months ago | (#45790853)

The city has spent more than $18 million in federal money to build its camera system and has another $5 million in reserve.
Houston also has expanded its video network through private sharing agreements, such as by accessing networks along rail lines.
Officials say data is not kept to determine if the cameras are driving down crime.

Implementation in anticipation of application.

Cameras (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45790873)

You know, cameras and video surveillance are like violence: if they don't solve your problem, you aren't using enough of them.

DHS reasoning (4, Insightful)

minstrelmike (1602771) | about 10 months ago | (#45790937)

The reason they say the cameras aren't for crime reduction is because that is measurable. If we say it is to protect critical infrastructure and no terrorist attacks occur in Houston, well obviously the system worked and it was money well spent.

Same as the justification for TSA. The bin Laden operation was a one shot deal. After it happened, no one would be able to hijack a fully-loaded (public) airplane and use it as a flying bomb. In fact, only 3 of the 4 planes hijacked on 9/11 were successful. Once we knew this wasn't your regular hijacking to Cuba, passengers responded.

But since we set up all these security lines and prevent people from bringing on shampoo and dangerous trinkets, then TSA is obviously the reason for our success.
Frankly, if we had door locks on airplane cabins, I suspect no one could take over an airplane even with box cutters now.

Well, Duh!!... (1)

BlueStrat (756137) | about 10 months ago | (#45791011)

Interestingly AP points out that 'Officials say data is not kept to determine if the cameras are driving down crime.'

If they kept such data around, somebody might try to halt the corrupt-politicians/connected-crony-contractor gravy train by publicizing the fact that it does not fulfill it's officially-stated purpose.

Not that halting it would happen just because of massive corruption being exposed. One has only to look at the example set by the Rape-A-Scan corruption debacle. The government basically reacted to being caught with "fuck you".

Been a lot of that from the government lately regardless of which political party is in power. Obviously, they are progressively worried less and less about the reaction of the people as time passes and their power, reach, and control grows. That's not good.

"When government fears the people, there is liberty. When people fear the government, there is tyranny." - Some old colonial dude that never even owned a computer or smartphone.

We're swiftly running out of boxes.

Strat

A common misconception (5, Insightful)

Sigvatr (1207234) | about 10 months ago | (#45791191)

The cameras are not placed there to prevent crime, but to assist in criminal investigation.

Re:A common misconception (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45795235)

... assist in criminal investigation.

Patriotic citizen, after watching you for 48 hours, I have determined you have committed the following crimes:

  - obscene language
  - littering
  - speeding
  - consumption of water exceeding council allowance

Please report to the local courthouse and collect your infringement notices.

British people are funny (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 10 months ago | (#45791473)

Houston Expands Downton Surveillance

I love watching that show too.

What a waste of taxes. (1)

HalAtWork (926717) | about 10 months ago | (#45791785)

Please spend this on education and food instead. You'll save more lives that way than with the cameras. Take the long view.

Texas = capital of the incipient Fourth Reich. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45792235)

The two most fascist states in the US are Texas and Tennessee.

Fortunately for those who have options, it is not necessary to live
in or near either state.

I do not believe that the rest of the US is going to follow the poor example
of Texas with respect to the many different misguided things one can see
happening within Texas, however. If anything, Texas serves and will continue to
serve as an example of what NOT to do and how NOT to do things.

Fuck Texas.

It's a redneck cesspool.

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