Here and Now

Big Brother Comes to Mahopac

High-tech, government-controlled, eavesdropping devices—listening and watching and prying into our everyday lives—are becoming pervasive. They are being positioned on the streets and highways we travel and they can be programmed to enter our homes and workplaces through the lenses and microphones of the PCs and smartphones we use.    

Of growing concern is the proliferation of invasive technologies and their unmonitored use by law enforcement. Many police departments maintain extensive files on citizens who have not been accused or even suspected of any crime. Computers linked together by high-speed networks with advanced processing systems can create comprehensive dossiers on any person. 

Given this intrusion into our everyday lives, who determines just what is, or is not law-abiding behavior? What systems are in place to ensure that our individual freedoms are being protected? 

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I read with rapt interest a story by Bob Dumas in the Feb. 8 edition of the Mahopac News: “Town to install traffic surveillance cameras.” The article described a plan being orchestrated by the Putnam County District Attorney’s Office and the Carmel Town Police to install video surveillance cameras throughout the hamlets of Mahopac and Carmel. Supposedly, these powerful cameras will help police and the district attorney’s office better fight crime. 

Traffic surveillance instruments or surreptitious crime-fighting tools?  Either way, are they really needed? 

Are we witnessing an upsurge in traffic accidents? Street crime? Petty larceny? Are ex-offenders or vagrants traversing our neighborhoods? 

The town of Carmel is already considered to be one of the safest places to live and work in this state and in this country. Isn’t the installation of monitoring equipment on our roads and streets, then—ostensibly to catch criminals—a gross invasion of our right to privacy? If not to make our roads and streets safer, why, then, is this equipment needed? To catch a few teens and seniors smoking pot in Chamber Park? It surely is not going to help expose white-collar crime or government corruption.

According to the Mahopac News report, Carmel Police Chief Mike Cazzari and Putnam County District Attorney Bob Tendy went before the Town Board on Jan. 24 to explain the technology and how the numerous installations would eventually be funded. This venture into crime-fighting technology will be rolled out in phases, and the estimated cost of this work, when completed, will be upwards of $2 million. Tendy said his office will put up $20,000 in asset-forfeiture money to help pay for the first phase of the project. Other money will likely come from state grants.

Cazzari states in the article that the cameras will capture license plates and compare them to a New York State database, the National Crime Information Center database, and any specific plates the Carmel Police may be searching for. The technology employs very high-resolution cameras to view the front and rear of a vehicle and read the license plates. It creates a data file of the license plates and can compare it to the DMV database and others while looking for criminal activity. If a match is found, Carmel Police will be notified within seconds. 

Do dangerous criminals on the lam drive vehicles registered to themselves? 

Cazzari also stated that while the system doesn’t have artificial intelligence and facial recognition capabilities, it can learn and will track and piece things together. 
“These are HD cameras and will be able to tell the color [and make] of the car. There are endless possibilities, but you must start somewhere and put the cameras up and the back end of it will keep evolving and getting better…They are not meant to catch speeders…motorists who run red lights and other traffic-code violators.” 

Mr. Tendy and Mr. Cazzari seem to be insisting on defining their own reality. They want us to believe their narrative that to remain safe, the town of Carmel must be kept constantly under surveillance. For what, exactly? To catch a supposed criminal just passing through? 

Look up. Big Brother is not only watching, but spending $2 million to do so!

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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