Archive for cameras

More automated GUILTY verdicts

Posted in Transport, Venting with tags , , , on February 25, 2008 by Apollo

I still can’t work up any enthusiasm for the various uses that cameras, technology, and software are being increasingly combined in order to net what can only be called Soft Targets, and decree them GUILTY of whatever offence they are programmed to detect.

We have speed cameras (disguised as safety cameras), red light cameras, and now the hunt is underway for the car occupancy camera, able to count the number of live bodies in a car, and automatically issue fines to any cars with only one occupant in a designated car-sharing lane.

I have no issue with the capture and conviction of offenders, but there is seems to be an increasing zeal in the creation of systems which can have some sort of trigger point set, and anyone that trips it is assumed GUILTY of the corresponding offence, and issued with a Fixed Penalty. This is accompanied by simultaneous initiation of a legal process which will lead to the escalation of the offence, and penalty, if the Fixed Penalty is not cleared in the allotted time interval, and can eventually have the police on your doorstep with a warrant.

This means we have a system that says you are guilty if any one of these systems ‘sees’ you, and you have been tried and convicted of whatever offence they are programmed to watch out for. If you wish to contest the penalty that has been served on you, YOU have to appeal, go to court, and spend time and money to prove your innocence. Not only that, there is a time limit in place, and if you don’t act fast enough, the opportunity will be lost, and those nice police officers will be knocking at your door with that warrant again.

I don’t want to get down to the nit-picking level of describing or arguing situations where the cameras get it wrong – sufficient to say that cases are dismissed, and circumstances are presented which nulify their guilty verdict.

There is also the crazy situation we have now where insurance companies have advised their clients, if stopped, NOT to pull forward and pass through a red traffic light to allow the police, ambulance, or fire service to pass, as they will trigger the camera and be issued with a fixed penalty that can only be cancelled by going to court, and that their appeal is unlikely to succeed.

Now that there are so many programmes following the police around as they try to do their job, I find it almost incredible that a camera can be set up to record potential driving offenders, and issue fines and guilty verdicts automatically, while at the same time a team of police officers that apprehend a individual carrying a bag of tools, and the proceeds of a burglary, cannot secure a conviction based on the evidence they have, and many of the the stories end with the poor victim claiming he just found them, or that he can’t actually be placed at the scene, and is released without charge.

How about a camera system linked to burglar alarm that takes a picture of the nearest person to a burglary, identifies them viasome face-matching software to known burglars, and then issues them with a fixed penalty? If they want to argue that it wasn’t them, then they can appeal against the the fine or conviction.

Better still, develop the camera so it is a bit smarter, and can read the target’s DNA, then all it will have to do is match it to someone on the forthcoming National DNA Database, and we can do away with the need to have any sort of human intervention in the process at all.

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Speeder Duck Shoot

Posted in Noteworthy, Transport with tags , , , , , , , on February 23, 2008 by Apollo

I find myself oddly uneasy about a report regarding a report about a police operation which netted a haul of over 100 speeding drivers in Fife, as they made their way to a car event being held at the disused RNAS Crail airfield (HMS Jackdaw) in Fife.

The Crail Thrash, and a number of other feature events, takes place at Crail Raceway on a number of weekends during the year, and basically allows anyone with a roadworthy car to turn up and buy a slot to allow them to make an independently timed run down the raceway’s 1/4 mile drag strip.

For this event, it is reported that senior police officers warned that police would be out in force, and Fife Constabulary say they issued warning to young drivers during the run-up to the event, although how effective this warning was would have to be questioned in reality, since the events attract visitors from the length and breadth of the country.

Three mobile camera units were deployed – two near the event itself, and one somewhere on the A92, described as a busy road. The total number of offenders detected for speeding offences by the three units was 106, although there was no breakdown of the numbers arising at each of the sites. One is reported to have been travelling at 111 mph, ‘several’ above 100 mph, but no other stats were given.

By now, if you’ve read this far, I would place a winning bet that you have dismissed my mention of this item as the ramblings of someone who is anti-police/camera/limits. This would be partially true in so far as Traffic Police have tried to fit me up once, I do not believe cameras are deployed for the reasons given in many cases, and the current revisions to the speed limits on a number of roads around me, at least, make one wonder why the were reduced so drastically.

BUT…

This does not mean I am going to say this was unfair, or that those drivers got a bad deal, or that it wasn’t fair to catch them, or something along those lines. Regardless of the event, and any warnings issued beforehand, they committed certain offences, and should be brought to account for their actions. You won’t find any defence for them in this Blog.

I haven’t attended Crail very often, but would have to say I didn’t notice any notable speeding en route – the roads were usually too narrow and congested – but I’m not saying it’s not done. My usual haunt is Knockhill, and the number of events I’ve attended there mean that a Season Ticket is a good buy. In that time, I’ve often reflected “Where are the police when you want them?” Although Powmill is rigorously policed, and generally all but shut down when a large even is on (and Park & Ride systems operate to the track), and the Kincardine end of the road is one of Scotland’s biggest traffic jams at event time. The problem is the intervening sections, where those with no self-control, and a failure to understand that covering those sections at 100 mph makes no difference to the hour they will sit in the jam at Kincardine, other than to place them two or three cars further along the line.

There are numerous occasions when I’ve wondered, ‘Where are the police when you want them?’, as I drove myself and my family to/from events at Knockhill.

SO…

If I want the police to be around on events, why does the opening part of this entry appear to written in critical, rather than supportive terms?

Simply because there is no mention in the report of any advice, cautions, or warnings handed out to any of the young drivers (and I bet all those caught were not ‘young’, but that wouldn’t support the pre-conceived story for the media). Apart from the three mobile camera units, how many marked, high profile police vehicles were visible patrolling the roads the cameras were on? How many police motor bikes were there on the roads, and how many police officers in high-visibility gear were to be seen?

Without the full details, I fear this was a ‘Self-fulfilling prophecy’, and all but guilty of being described as an exercise engineered to produce the required headline, and add fuel to the ‘Young drivers are a problem’ fire.

WHY…

Why have I gone to the bother of commenting on this? Speeding drivers were caught, there’s no argument or defence, and it may deter them in future, so there is hopefully a positive outcome.

The reason is the depressing fact that that although operations like this provide a nice headline, they do little to deter Joe (or Josephine) Public from speeding, and in more dangerous places than rural roads, and that’s the roads where you and I, and your children, are likely to be trying to cross.

I make a terrible passenger, and one of the reasons is that on many occasions when I travel as such, I inevitably find my eye drawn to the driver’s speedo. While I won’t say that all are the same, many are mature adults (40 year olds +) and parents with children f various ages. As we’re usually travelling for business, that mean city and suburbs, populated areas, school, and parents with prams wandering about. The depressing side of things is that they generally drive in built-up areas at 40 mph, and those that are pressed for time are quite happy to drive through these areas at 50 mph.

The doubly depressing side of this story is that they generally have no points, maybe 3, and don’t take any particular care to watch for police, and know where the speed cameras are.

The bottom line would appear to be that if you look as if you will speed, and are also stupid enough to speed in the wrong place, the police will make the effort to catch you.

If however, you don’t look as if you are going to speed, and do it somewhere that you’re not likely to attract attention, then the authorities aren’t really going to bother to try and catch you.

I’d like to see three mobile camera units being deployed on the roads around me at random intervals, they’d net more than a few young drivers, and lots of regular, mature, respectable, offenders, that would get a nasty and well deserved surprise.

But that wouldn’t make the same headline, would it?