Major newspaper columnist speaks out against technophile policing of streets

Washington Post columnist Mr. Courtland Milloy has some much needed criticism of the expensive technophile policing that law enforcement in Washington, D.C., has become heavily vested in:

With all the high-tech crime-fighting gadgets and gizmos being deployed throughout the District in the past couple of years, you’d expect to see at least a dent in violent crime. Rob somebody, and you could be caught in the act by any of 48 surveillance cameras. Shoot somebody, and the noise could be picked up by a network of sensors that can pinpoint the location of gunfire.

And with the District’s new state-of-the-art unified communications command center, any of the 34 law enforcement agencies operating in the city — including D.C. police, Prince George’s County police, U.S. Park Police, FBI, ATF and DEA — could be dispatched to the scene in no time. Or so we were told.

Now, millions of dollars and hundreds of homicides later, you have to wonder if taxpayers have been had.

The District’s epidemic of homicides and assaults continues, with five more killings within 27 hours during the weekend. As of yesterday, the city had 131 homicides, compared with 119 at the same time last year.

It was while visiting “the District’s new state-of-the-art unified communications command center” that former Boston Globe metro columnist Mr. Brian McGrory was sold on the greatness of ShotSpotter, the sensors alluded to by Mr. Milloy. Yet ShotSpotter probably had little if anything to do with the suspect quickly being arrested after the shooting. As is Mr. Milloy’s main point, the sensors did nothing to prevent the murder.

ShotSpotter is in the process of being deployed in Boston at the request of the City Council. There were skeptical voices on the Council, but they were hounded into submission by a figurative wolfpack of journalists, including The Boston Herald‘s police reporter Michele McPhee, who somehow had been lead to believe, by someone and exactly who is unclear, that ShotSpotter dramatically reduces crime.

Yes, I think tax payers have been had, and I think the people who live in crime infested neighborhoods have been let down by their representatives.

My previous posts on ShotSpotter:

The acoustic bodycounter

Call it SomeShotSpotter

ShotSpotter roll-out delayed in Boston

Hear this

Below: Photograph of an in-street roll-call for Washington, D.C., police in 2003.

Photograph of an in-street roll-call for Washington, D.C., police in 2003.