Crime, fear; scams and police cams


Friday, February 07, 2014    

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Crime is harmful to your health and we must embrace measures to remain free of crime. Crime is now a pandemic, still and we must contain it here. Preventative measures -- passive as education or invasive as cameras -- are critical, and all of us must work at it. On the other hand punishing crime is for the police and courts and self-help is not welcome; vigilantes may be cathartic, but we can't build a nation on violence caped as justice. Crime needs therapy and police cameras are part of the regimen. The notion of "the cure" rampant in society is false. Evil is part of life. Crime grew in your life before the nation's, so your practices matter. The epidemic grew by degrees, and may be contained by degrees, but prevention of its spread and punishment of full-blown cases are the deal. We can't afford costly therapies, and while you are fretful about what the police are doing, or not doing consider your out-of-control kids, your own at-risk lifestyle as what you do helps or hinders containment of crime and fear.

Crime is big, but bigger still is fear. Crime and fear are not the same. We have no statistics on fear, but it is infectious. Fear is a disease. Its epidemiology is not documented, but it is palpable in many communities. Fear is toxic; it uglifies, delays the good and presages the bad. Many migrate because of crime, but more are driven by fear. Most have no experience of crime but are febrile. Fear debilitates. Fear affects production, energy levels, motivation, decisions to invest or disinvest, to reside or not, the "informa feh ded" culture. How does fear spread? Is the vector airborne? Even in gated communities, which have no crime, fear is palpable, insidious. How can we dissipate it?

A body camera, lapel cam, head cam on a police officer is small but can boost public confidence. A body cam may be prophylactic or give evidence. A phone cam may scare off a villain. Recently I was waiting to put air in my tyre when a taxi came between me and the car at the pump. The taxi man held the hose so I set the air device to zero. He got angry, so did I; in a hurry? So was I; had to pump one tyre, me too. He would not budge so I used my phone cam to take photos of his car, licence plate, passenger, and he protested "yuh coulda get lick or lock up feh dat" -- I was in my neighbourhood. I focused the phone cam on his face and he backed off. Your phone cam may deter bad conduct or show up evidence -- use it!

CCTV linked to licence plate and facial recognition software at the six points of ingress and egress of our city could be useful to the police. Within the city most vehicles pass through seven traffic nodes, like HWT, at least once per day. A CCTV network is not cheap, but neither is the wastage by crime and fear. London is the most CCTV'd city with five or six sets of public cameras -- police, parking, local council, congestion charge, traffic, weather, and private ones. Citizens may need a dash cam, boot cam, cockpit, and passenger cams to sanitise their lives. Because of scams and crime it won't be long before automakers offer on-board cameras as standard on all cars.

Cash for crash

This is a big scam now. How does it work? The scammer applies his brakes in front of your car, and bam! You hit his car. Expect this scam when travelling alone, no one is in sight and on a straight road; as a woman driver, an older driver, or drive a nice car. Check yourself by these criteria, be alert. Scammer: "The lady in my car is a witness who will say you were speeding and ran into my car." They travel in pairs. Worst case: "You were tailgating me, for if you were at the right braking distance you would have stopped in time." So you decide to call the police but: "Lady yuh sure yuh waan lose you no-claim bonus fi dis likkle ting, jus gimmie a 10 bills?" The Scammer knows his work-you are stressed, want no delay or hassle so you pay and he is off to the next victim. A dashboard cam might have provided evidence the Scammer's brake lights were bright at the time of impact and he might leave quietly.

The body or lapel cam has been tried with good effect by police forces in the USA. In one jurisdiction it cut complaints against police by some 80 per cent. It seems the police behave better on-camera; citizens can prove their claim or police their innocence. We also need protocols -- Do we exempt filming in private homes; delete footage promptly or store it? The dash cam means all police work is done in front of the vehicle, not beside or behind. Can this work here? The UK police will experiment with a lapel cam this year, so they too are on the learning curve. Let's have more cameras as they help fight crime and scams.

Flash for cash is the latest auto scam in the UK, and our diaspora will soon bring it here. It works like this. In the UK, as here, we flash headlights to warn motorists of police presence or to give a bly. Scammers now use this to make cash. You are at an intersection waiting to enter a major road when an oncoming car flashes his headlights "Oh, the nice men are flashing to let me through" go girl...Baddam! "Oh God, he hit me!" Yes, the scammer speeds up and rams your car-not too bad but loud. You jump out "but you flashed..." Scammer: "Lady you drove from a minor road into the main road and I have a witness in my car who will say so!"... caught! "Lady the road code says you are to wait until the road is clear before you move into a major road...oh, you did? So why is my car in the side of yours?" You may pay him or he will get insurance cash for whiplash, backache, job loss, vehicle repair; and you lose four days, your no-claim bonus, and premiums rise. You will never again act on a flashing headlight even if hubby says "Dear, yuh can't drive, see the man giving you a bly?" Driver Ed 101: Take cues from the police only!

Cameras are useful in the crime fight. We must use our phone cam for recording risqué, illegal acts or injustice and uploading to the police, insurance firm or social media. These agencies must create protocols to make it easy. HGV's delivering goods can be monitored by on-board cameras in real-time via cell sites or broadband for safety and security. The AA in the UK offers dash cams to members. The motorist can monitor his car on camera by phone, 24/7, with apps like Bamboozer from anywhere. The police need help, and we must do our part. Cameras work both ways and an owner may be caught too. Bad cyclists may be caught by their helmet cams. Or your tailgating by your dash cam -- cuts both ways! The JCF spraying the community will not end the epidemic of crime and fear; individuals have to empty the cans of worms in their own backyards. Stay conscious my friend!

Dr Franklin Johnston is a strategist, project manager and advises the minister of education.





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