New York’s Big Brother surveillance systems justified through fear-mongering after the 9/11 attacks and funded with federal anti-terrorism dollars is now being used to target ordinary crime. After the 9/11 attacks, governments at all levels helped fuel the hysteria by pouring fear-mongering fuel on an already chaotic and uncertain situation. Federal, state, and local officials helped racket up the panic and leverage off of public fear in order to acquire more government police powers. Almost universally, it was claimed that the new powers would be used to fight terrorism and would not be used to bypass protections that ordinary citizens are guaranteed under the Bill of Rights. Those promises immediately became more and more watered down to the point where they are now forgotten.
New York City police now have access to some 6000 surveillance cameras and 120 license plate readers with plans to more than double that number. The courts have declared that attaching a GPS locator to someone’s car without a warrant constitutes a violation of their 4th Amendment rights, being able to track their position using license plate readers essentially guts that ruling.
Now, New York has openly stated that the technology that Americans tolerated as a necessary evil to fight terrorism is being turned on New York residents for purposes having absolutely nothing to do with terrorism. New York has established a reputation for dragnet style tactics where they simply dispense with 4th Amendment protections conducting wholesale searches of people on the street in hopes of catching them doing something they’re no supposed to be doing. Imagine an expansion of that strategy to encompass all the new technological tools developed and installed under the excuse that they were needed to fight terrorism.
This reminds me of the trend of local law enforcement agencies to acquire military equipment for ordinary policing. Even tiny towns now have SWAT teams and armored vehicles. Once a department has that equipment, they’re going to find a use for it and, as a result, storm trooper style raids are routinely used to serve warrants on non-violent offenders.
Expanding power and surveillance available to police departments notorious for abusing existing powers can only lead to even more abuse.