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This is the third, and last planned, bit of commentary on the shooting in Texas. The first post is here, and the follow-up is here. Many of you have commented about the video in the various posts, and it is a point that needs some discussion.
The ubiquitousness of video is a remarkable thing. On one level, it represents the strides made in video and recording technology over the years. I still remember getting trained in video recording, editing, and production in 1976 at the Boy Scout World Jamboree. The cameras were large, the editing suite large, and the quality was so-so by today’s standards. Back then, it was revolutionary.
Today, the Contour camera I bought to mount to my helmet a few years back is tiny in comparison to those early cameras, and still is huge in comparison to some of the high-res cameras you can buy on the cheap. Oh, and that huge editing suite? Everything it did and more can now be done on a laptop. The reels of video tape (and later video cassettes) are now a small chip.
The doorbell camera my landlord has may not be as high-res as some, but it is surprisingly good for the size. From wherever we are, we can check to see who or what set off the camera, and if the mail has been delivered yet.
It is more unusual these days for a house not to have something like that, or even more than one, for security purposes. Businesses have cameras inside and out for security, so that when something happens there is a record of it and a means for the police to track down the perpetrators. Add to that cameras that are in place at shopping centers, set-up by LE, and a surprising amount of your life is on video. They don’t even have to hide the cameras in fake power pole transformers and such anymore.
And it’s not just the large cities. It is widespread everywhere, from urban New York to rural Iowa. Part of the idea was to let people keep an eye on things no matter where they were, and to have a record of events if needed. Part was to have a record that could be shared with LE and prosecutors at need, to help ensure justice when and if something happened.
Many are starting to re-think things. First, in many areas of the country you have a new breed of prosecutor who is soft on crime and is far more lenient on perps than on victims. Ones who have already indicated they will go after those who fight back rather than the perp. Second, you have them and others who will abuse those video records to harass or otherwise abuse the innocent. To stalk people for reasons personal and political.
As a number of people have pointed out in the comments, what would have happened if there had been no video being shot at the restaurant? Nothing that would have caught the act, the shooter’s vehicle, or other things that would have helped LE track him down. You would have just had the witness statements about the tall/short caucasian/other thin/fat etc. etc. etc. that are witness statements. Could he still have been tracked down? Yes, but it would have been a LOT harder to do. Would that effort have been made with just a dead career violent criminal who hit the FAFO jackpot? Good question.
I may have heard a rumor about a business that suffered a mysterious glitch in their very good video system a while back. One that just happened to not catch an incident that may not have happened that could have caused a good person some trouble. In fact, I may have heard of more than one. Frankly, as things head south, I expect to hear a lot more rumors and stories like that.
Also, what incentive will there be for people to cooperate with LE and prosecutors if the perps are going to be out again in a few hours at most, and anyone who stood up to them being investigated or harassed? Worse yet, identified in the news so the perp can easily learn their name and all about them for their own actions?
I think we are going to start seeing a large lack of cooperation on the part of the public, and not just in the jurisdictions that have soft-on-crime prosecutors and/or ineffective governance at all levels. What happens there will have people in good areas questioning the desirability to cooperate with their own LE and prosecutors. Do I think it will get to the point people are disabling or hiding their video systems? I think we are already there.
As for the comment about 500-yard shots not being on video, think again. Right now, from the time I leave my front door, my travels are on video with surprisingly few gaps. There are doorbell cameras, security cameras, traffic cameras, and it wouldn’t surprise me to find out the Rodent Liberation Front has cameras set up as well. If you think that LE can’t trace back where a shot came from, and there won’t be video of traffic in that area, much less of people walking around, think again.
There are good odds that unless someone takes active steps there will be. Once you leave that bubble of active steps, well, someone may wonder why you were in that area and what you were carrying. Oh, and don’t forget that most large cities (and quite a few others) have systems for detecting and localizing the sounds of gunshots. Is it possible to avoid or spoof some or all of it? Yes. Easy? Depends.
Far more of our daily lives is on video that we realize. Between video, tracking of cell phone and social media usage, and other ways we can and are tracked, someone determined can learn a lot and even cause us lots of problems.
I don’t think we’ve hit peak video yet; but, I do think we’ve already entered the era of selective video. One where individuals, businesses, and other entities are not going to be as quick to share video with anyone, especially LE and prosecutors, as they were even last year. Given all that’s happened in about the last three years, I expect to see this trend grow. As such, I can’t blame anyone who elects for selective sharing.