One of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s passions is guns; not that he likes them – he doesn’t. His disdain for the Second Amendment and his abiding desire to keep firearms out of the hands of law-abiding citizens is known far and wide. Despite the Supreme Court’s Second-Amendment affirming opinion two years ago, Bloomberg’s campaign to enlist other mayors in a plan to short-circuit private ownership of firearms in their jurisdictions as is the case in the Big Apple, still provides reason for him to visit colleagues in other cities and rail against the evils of private gun ownership.
Shortly after the capture of the so-called “Times Square bomber” earlier this month, Bloomberg took his anti-firearms show once more to Capitol Hill, where he testified that anyone thought by someone in government to be, or to be connected with a terrorist should be denied the right to purchase a firearm. Clearly, the mayor’s interest in wresting firearms from the hands of as many people in this country as possible has not flagged.
However, Bloomberg did manage a trip abroad last week (to London, England), to dip his hand once more into another of his pet projects – surveillance cameras.
The mayor is an avid fan of surveillance cameras; lots and lots of them. Thus, his envy for the capitol of the United Kingdom – home to more surveillance cameras than any other city in the world. One can see the mayor’s eyes open wide with envy last week as he toured London with its mayor, Boris Johnson, who pointed out many of the fully one-half million surveillance cameras operating to view and record virtually the every move of citizens and visitors alike in this British city similar in size to New York City.
New York’s system of several thousand surveillance cameras – which includes some 3,000 installed at Bloomberg’s directive in and around lower Manhattan and Midtown following an earlier visit to London in 2007 – while robust by U.S. standards, is paltry compared to London’s. But, judging by Bloomberg’s latest foray to the U.K. to gush over their system, he aims to close the “surveillance gap.”
While the mayor might have public opinion on his side (recent polls indicate a majority of Americans still favor the deployment of surveillance cameras as a tool with which to thwart acts of terrorism), before he launches into yet another round of installing these expensive devices on poles, building, wires and on vehicles, someone might want to acquaint him with actual studies that question the usefulness of massive deployments of cameras.
Studies of the degree to which surveillance cameras in the U.K. have actually aided police in solving crimes, do not lend much support, if any, to a plan to buy and install huge numbers of cameras around a city. A study conducted just last year by British law enforcement, for example, revealed that only about one in 1,000 crimes was solved by any one CCTV camera operating to record moves of Londoners. In the wake of that study, a government spokesman in Great Britain perhaps unwittingly revealed the real reason for having so many cameras in and around London — simply to make people “feel safer.” A surveillance safety blanket, so to speak.
In fact, the reality is that surveillance cameras are massively employed in the U.K. for a reason far less lofty than protecting the citizenry from acts of terrorism. Cameras mounted to buses, police cars, and other government-owned vehicles equipped with license-plate recognition cameras, generate huge amounts of revenue for the cash-strapped municipality; by nabbing parking-ticket scofflaws and drivers who haven’t paid the “central city tax” for the privilege of driving in downtown London. However, I’m sure such a mundane reason for emulating London’s strangely-named “Ring of Steel” consisting of more than 500,000 surveillance cameras, would never cross Mr. Bloomberg’s mind.