As an MP is reportedly arrested for trying to leak information in the public interest, and royal assent is given to a bill that carries up to ten years in prison for gathering information on a police officer, new CCTV cameras in Portsmouth will be able to identify ‘unusual’ incidents and alert their operators to them. Such unusual and suspicious behaviour includes loitering, other causes for alarm include cars going ‘too fast’.
The makers are keen to stress with a some jocularity, that it is not of course the camera that can decide if the situation in question is about to spiral into criminal deviance – it is only the camera operator that can weigh up the evidence and make this ‘human’ decision. This does not of course make the slightest bit of difference to the fact that people in Portsmouth will now constantly be watched for anything that could possibly indicate them doing something illegal. Considering how low the bar seems to be before the cameras register alarm, and how many things are now criminal offences, this virtually amounts to people being watched all the time, under constant suspicion.
It’s quite interesting to follow the logic of this scheme to it’s only real conclusion. The cameras are not just designed to predict crime based on certain criteria of behaviour, although this is of course a massive loss of liberties in itself. Essentially, they are designed to monitor behaviour that falls outside of the state appointed norm, and even in the cases where security guards choose not to interpret this behaviour as criminal, they will still constantly highlight those whose behaviour falls outside of these boundaries. By this logic, the deviance will, officially, become the same as the crime, highlighted in the same context, dealt with in the same framework, and ultimately the two become associated in the minds of the camera operators, as if security guards weren’t pseudo cops enough already.
Little information exists as yet as to what will be done with images of those who are flagged but turn out to not be about to rob a bank, mug an old lady or stand on the pavement with a flyer (post up if you know), but it would make sense for all these images to be kept, the way the state and police currently keep information on all the ‘deviants’. This creates a situation where people are scared of doing anything that isn’t state-stamped as ‘normal’ for fear of being considered criminal, and even more so than happens already, begin to police themselves. For things like standing about.
So will it really come to the point where everyone, once outside their home, is constantly on the move, not stopping, not looking up, not pausing to consider, not stopping to think, not thinking, not choosing where to go, just going?
Critical mass loitering in Portsmouth, anyone?