Boondoggle Chronicles

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Sadly, there were no security cameras in the smoky backroom where the comisión for this contract was negotiated…

Interior Minister Miguel Rodríguez Torres has revealed his latest plan to fight crime: Deploying a lot of security cameras. A lot.

Thanks to a brand new deal with CEIEC, a company owned by our Chinese overlords, the government will put at least 30,000 security cameras all around Venezuela in order to collect information in real time.

Rodríguez Torres informed that the plan will start with a pilot project in Petare (Eastern Caracas) next month and that the overall objective of the so-called SIMA project is to “…generate a situation of security in the country”. I think the word he was trying to use was actually “sensation”.

Of course, this plan brings many questions that likely will remain unanswered: first, there are already plenty of surveillance cameras installed in our major cities by local governments in recent years (along with a large number of private CCTV systems as well) What will happen to those? It wouldn’t be easier to just coordinate efforts between the different police forces? You know, eficiencia o nada?

And then other questions arise about this proposed system: Why exactly 30,000 cameras? How the authorities reached that conclusion? Did they make a study? Why there wasn’t a public bidding process? How the cameras will be distributed? Who will oversee them? Will those cameras resist blackouts and brownouts? How they will affect the right to privacy?

This announcement (as part of the relaunch of the A Toda Vida security plan), wants to pushback the recent failures of the Secure Fatherland plan. But the government knows it has an uphill battle, as public opinion puts the blame of crime mostly on its shoulders.

But what this new “Big Brother”-type of surveillance confirms is that the current government has quite a thing for Orwell’s 1984, in more ways than one.

1 COMMENT

  1. We all know this is going to be an enormous boondoggle – the cameras will not arrive, millions will be stolen, etc etc. But from a mere public policy point of view, I like the idea.

    • I like it too and the idea has been already implemented here, but it won’t solve the entire problem all by itself. For example, there’s not enough police manpower available.

  2. Fernando Coronil (QEPD) wrote beautifully about the petrostate’s chronic inability to distinguish between the visible outer signs of development and development.

    The security camera is just that: the visible outer sign of a surveillance system. What you don’t see is the whole human infrastructure that translates that visible outer-sign into increased security: the thousands of trained officers monitoring the cameras, the dispatch systems able to send cops quickly to where a crime is seen, the fiscalía’s capacity to actually leverage security camera footage into evidence and evidence into convictions, the integration of security camera footage into police investigative and intelligence gathering functions…

    Even if, miraculously, the money isn’t stolen and the cameras actually get installed, the government doesn’t have the capacity to translate installed cameras into improved security. Because we’re still living in The Magical State.

  3. I hope the questions about studies and public bidding process are merely rethorical. Its obvious nothing of it wasn’t done. They haver never wanted to govern, but to controll us, and the are exceedingly good at it.

  4. Agree with John, they better have bullet-proof housings or else it will be a target rich enviroment.

    That being said, I can’t but help thinking they will also use this to create a sensation that they are watching you, the law abiding citizen.

    Imagine how this will affect free speech and demonstrations. If we felt that media is being muzzled and different thinking media crowded out, what do you think the effect on common, law abidign citizens will be?

    I get that crime is out of control, and I understand that cameras and other surveillance devices can have a salubrious effect, however this is definitely a two edged sword and in the hands of this group of zealot fascists they could easily become a way to silence dissent.

    The courts and public safety forces need to first actually, you know, apply the laws and norms that are already on the books fer chrissakes!!

    In Venezuela’s case, if as stated above they actually purchase these things above-board, and actually install them, the potential for abuse will far outweigh any perceived benefits.

    Big Brother is watching you, Juan Bimba…………………………………………..

  5. public bidding? does that even exists anymore? still I think the cameras are better than nothing, at least I hope that some may still be operational when a real goverment get to office and may take advantage of them

    • Diosdado se las va a llevar toditas, al menos las de Caracas y las de Maturín. Las otras se las llevarán las Milicias Bolivarianas.

  6. My first reactions as a Venezuelan: “guiso parejo….”. Somebody is getting rich here with this contract, no bidding, just buying from the chinese. Then, who will be monitoring so many cameras? Wouldn’t it be better that the little police we actually have are actually out there patrolling instead of sitting on a chair looking at a monitor?

    And of course, here is my reaction as a canadian: privacy.

    http://www.priv.gc.ca/information/guide/vs_060301_e.asp

    “Proliferation of video-surveillance raises a concern that inferences will be drawn about people, that the data will be used for trivial or discriminatory purposes.”

  7. The idea per se is not crazy ( whatever crazy things it leads to ), using parettos principle you might set up cameras only where crimes are known to ocurr with greatest frequency,and where the cameras can be placed where they cant be easily seen or destroyed , and then create a surveillance system that allows for a quick police response to ongoing crimes . The idea is not to smash crime but to make a dent in the bourgouning crime statistics. Even if you cant stop ongoing crimes you get images that can help the police find the criminals later on . Another idea because so much crime now is perpetrated by policemen , secretly put a gsp in every patrol car that records its movements and thus detect when crimes are being committed by policemen and criminal associates.. In the US criminals tattling on their colleages can get certain sentencing benefits , this is not allowed by Venezuelas Criminal Law System .. Maybe if we copied the US System something good might come from it. !!

    • Recently, two jewelry stores were robbed in Centro Lido, later. when Polichacao arrived, several agents proceeded to finish the looting started by the robbers, stealing the jewels that were left, but were caught by the mall’s security cameras and are now in jail.

  8. Sounds like the real problem is in the chain of command. The camera helps to gather information that stays intact up the chain, and they might be able to identify where the problems and gaps are in the chain of command, chain of custody, chain of evidence, etc. Cameras were essential in finding the Boston Bombers!

    • I’m probably sounding a little reactionary? But, the real problem is the lack of accountability in a politicised hierarchy prone to corruption. Cameras are too little too late! The whole system is rotten!

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