Sunday, 27 March 2011

The Price for Our Security

Intrusive as they may seem ; authorised, detailed and round-the-clock surveillance by the relevant agencies is , in the long run , a small price for citizens to pay in order to ensure the security of their lives and properties.
What could be better than a good night sleep , safer streets and peace of mind which come with the knowledge that our streets , houses , schools and office are well policed and well monitored , even in our absence?
Also, it feels good to know that barring any acts of our own carelessness, that our life savings and financial investments are secured and safe from "Smart Alecs" with itchy fingers!
The UK Security Agencies have acquired a world-wide respect and acclaim for their enviable records and reputation for their "wizardry" and swift efficiency in apprehending and prosecuting criminals.
Their famous efficiency is based , mainly , on their dedicated use of a vast array of surveillance gadgets and techniques , at their disposal.

Of all the surveillance methods in use , CCTV cameras and devices for eavesdropping on phone calls and reading text messages of the populace are the two most annoying of them all!
The Wiki leak scandals have further confirmed what was an open secret that contents of emails were not secured ; they could be accessed and opened for public viewing.
The wide spread use of CCTV cameras and Satellite surveillance like Google Earth - Street View , have caused alarm and irritation to citizens who view them as excessive and unwarranted invasion of their privacy.
Protests and strident calls have been made for a drastic reduction and a firmer control on the use of unbridled surveillance systems on members of the public.
Millions of people see the use of their personal data gleaned from unwarranted and unauthorised surveillance as a breach of Human Rights Laws.
Legal and logistical obstacles stand in the way of a massive Big Brother-esque database but information is being gathered on almost everything we do.
Recently , there have been suggestions from some people that the number of CCTV cameras, their Monitoring Posts and staff should be cut down drastically!
Indeed , some of the cameras have been switched off to cut costs.

Rightly, the "Big Brother invasion" of our privacy and Human Rights could be offensive.
Nobody , guilty or innocent, would feel comfortable if they knew they were being watched.
However, people would not succumb to temptations to commit crimes if they knew they were being watched by law enforcement officers.
My street has six CCTV cameras, evenly positioned along its 200 metres length.
Some years ago , my mother was visiting us . One night, she went to the toilet at about 2 a.m and peeped out of her bedroom window , from where she could see the junction of our street with the High street. Later, she told me she was fascinated and impressed to see motorists obeying traffic lights at the junction , at 2 a.m. , when there were very few cars and people on the road and no policeman in sight!
We had a good laugh about it when I told her that people were obeying the lights , not because they wanted to; but because they knew there were CCTV and Speed cameras at our street junction , watching them 24/7!

Like everyone else, I do wonder about the men and women who are monitoring these CCTV cameras in some Police office somewhere , round the clock. Where are they, what are they seeing , thinking and feeling as they watch?
I have seen people doing rude stuff before the cameras like giving the "finger-up w--k-r" sign , baring their bums and their chests!
I used to make funny faces at the cameras and mouth the words , "What are you looking at ?".
But I would not do all that now because i know the importance of CCTV surveillance.
Two years ago, I had reasons to thank God for their presence and today , I acknowledge their importance . I do appreciate their presence all over the place and I support that CCTV camera surveillance must remain on our streets in the UK.
I appreciate the importance of CCTV surveillance because I know, first hand, that they are indispensable in crime detection and prevention .
Twice , not through my carelessness, I have been a victim of crime .
Once by bank fraud by a criminal syndicate which cloned my Bank Visa card and I have been a victim of pick-pockets in a popular London shopping centre.
On both occasions, thanks to CCTV surveillance, the offenders were arrested and prosecuted.
My purse was returned by the Police to me , a few minutes after it was nicked and my bank refunded all the money stolen from my bank account, after a few days of Police investigation.

There is no society that can boast of "absolute security ".
Security is not the absence of danger, but the presence of God, no matter what the danger.
"Except the Lord build the house , they labour in vain that build it : except the Lord keep the city , the watchman waketh but in vain ". Psalm 127:1.
However , the collective efforts in any society to secure the lives and properties of its citizens are the building -blocks of a free and just society.
A state of anarchy cannot sustain a climate of peace and meaningful development.
In every society , there exist a minority ; pockets of social deviants who would not comply with the rules and laws of the land , if they knew that nobody was watching them.
Without effective surveillance, the anti-social elements in our midst would have a field day in making life very unpleasant for the majority of the populace.
Without CCTV and other forms of surveillance tools for crime prevention, what are the alternatives? How would the law enforcement agencies monitor , apprehend and effectively deter the unrelenting antisocial die-hard in our societies?
The alternatives to constant surveillance by the relevant authorities would be the costlier and unjust alternatives where each citizen would bear the responsibility of providing for their own personal security .
People would then develop a "Siege mentality". Each person would then have to put in place their own personal security arrangements which would entail fortifying our homes and offices with high walls, iron bars, steel gates , floodlights and CCTV cameras and employing security and body guards.
And at what cost ? What about those citizens who cannot afford such high security bills?
Clearly, the option of " Every man to himself ; God for us all!", is unjust and unacceptable.
Only affluent citizens can afford the very high cost of providing personal security.
Therefore , in lawless and unjust societies, the poor citizens who cannot afford detailed personal security are left unaided by their Governments; then they are left vulnerable , in a state of panic and terror!

The Police watching from CCTV Monitoring centres , do excellent jobs in foiling attempts by countless pick-pockets on the streets.
With the aid of CCTV surveillance, at all hours, the Police are able to see and successfully foil robberies -in-progress , even in the absence of the property owners.
Many people on holidays abroad, thousands of miles from the UK, have received shocking phone calls from the UK Police to inform them that thieves have been arrested for attempted break-ins and robbery in their homes or offices!
While their neighbours couldn't call the police , because the neighbours were unaware of the robberies; the Police could sight the robbers on CCTV cameras , miles away and move in to cordon off the whole area and arrest the robbers.
Therefore , the men and women of the Police and the Armed Forces, in order to keep up their good work , deserve every commendation and encouragement from the government and the citizens.
“Learned institutions ought to be favorite objects with every free people. They throw that light over the public mind which is the best security against crafty and dangerous encroachments on the public liberty.” James Madison .
Authorised , effective surveillance should not be criticised or subjected to cut backs; even in times of austerity .
They are necessary and effective for a better society; and the more of them , the better for the society.

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