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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

A little outsourcing

This BBC story could have come straight out of a comic novel:

A man in Australia tipped off police in Devon after seeing a suspected burglary on a webcam based in Exmouth.

Andrew Pritchard, 52, from Boorowa, New South Wales, saw two men run from a car to a beach-front kiosk.

After searching for the number of Devon and Cornwall police he was able to direct them to the scene of the crime.

However it turned out not to be a crime:

It transpired the pair were a man and a woman having an argument, not conducting a burglary, but the police praised Mr Pritchard for his actions.

I actually believe them. They were able to bustle about and investigate, but it turned out they had no actual criminals to deal with, so no horrid fighting and no horrid paperwork. Instead, they had a nice little story to trade with their local media.

As for the idea of people in Australia looking at pictures from our spycams, it has often puzzled me who on earth is supposed to keep track of all our spycam pictures, what with there now being about ten times as many spycams in Britain as there are people. I seem to recall that in this Libertarian Alliance publication, in the bit where I discuss how to exploit old people and thus keep them feeling important for longer, I suggest that oldies might like to do this. Let them earn their pensions. And now that we all have broadband connections, there is no need for these oldies to be in Britain. In fact, given what our criminals like to do to witnesses who grass them up, Australia is probably the ideal spot for them.

7 comments to A little outsourcing

  • I'm suffering for my art

    Just out of curiosity; when you say “spycam”, what do you mean precisely? I am hazarding a guess at any surveillance camera. Are there really (approx) 600 million such devices in the UK? Are you including privately-owned CCTV setups that monitor private assets on private premises? Or even private assets on public premises? Surely this kind of surveillance camera would make up the vast majority of security video monitoring – CCTV in liquor stores and the like. I personally don’t find this kind of “spycam” to be particularly insidious. Therefore that figure of 600 million (or whatever the actual figure is, 600 million seems way too much) is a lot less scary than it sounds.

  • Here is New Zealand we have the opposite problem.

    A shop owner in Auckland gave the police a video of someone stealing from his shop along with the first name and workplace of the offender.

    He got back a letter saying the police would not be taking action because the offending was not serious enough.


  • Pete_London

    This story is obviously bogus. There’s no way our uniformed social workers would send someone out to deal with a reported crime.

  • Jacob

    A similar thing happened in Israel a couple of days ago. A house was broken in. The owner hired a private detective, since he had no confidence that police would seriously investigate. He came up with the name and address of the burglar, and lodged a complaint with the police. Police said they were busy, and the case is too unimportant for them to bother and arrest the burglar.

  • I work in computer vision, i.e. using cameras as a sensor for systems or robots.

    I wouldn’t at all be concerned by the multitude of cameras in public because they require people watching them. That kind of super bureaucracy doesn’t exist in the west. I’m not even really concerned about computer because they only do as programmed, and the state of the art is very, very far from “The Matrix”, say.

    You could get an evil government to spy on its people in a few years time, but I’m not quite sure what they’d do with it. If there were a law against something you are doing in public, I’d be concerned about the law and not the cameras, right?

    Either way, you are very right about the number of cams around. They are growing exponentially because the cost is dropping very fast. Just wait till computers because cheap/powerful enough to start analyzing the feed. Then you’ll have two exponentials: the increasing speed of computers & the decreasing cost of cameras.

    Here is a good example of the many cameras out there. Anyone interested in going to Boston College ? More here.

  • Stehpinkeln

    Haven’t yet seen a spy-can that couldn’t be ‘adjusted’. Those bug spray cans that shoot 20′ work great. And then there is the ever popular 12 guage ‘adjustment’. The Speed Limit signs have been shot so full of holes that it isn’t fun any more. But those radar cams spark like the dickens when you put some #00 into the case.

  • Dave F

    In Cape Town, SA, “volunteers” drawn from the ranks of “c oncerned residents” are now being used by the traffic police to spy on motorists and report them for traffic infractions. On receipt of such a report by a duly registered and numbered spotter, the traffic department sends a letter to the offending motorist saying this offence has been observed, and requesting that it should not be repeated. Apparently there are hundreds of people doing this.

    Utterly amazing.