Home > Uncategorized > One Form of Surveillance I Support… With a Caveat

One Form of Surveillance I Support… With a Caveat

Channel 13 in the Norfolk VA area reported on a Newport News School District’s means of catching drivers who break the law passing school buses who are picking up children: the use of video cameras attached to the stop arm of buses. I have written several posts lamenting the increased surveillance of students in schools and on buses on the basis that it effectively trains them to accept 24/7 surveillance, I am not opposed to using video surveillance to ensure safe boarding and disembarking from buses and to catch those who violate the traffic laws governing school buses. This need to catch violators was underscored by the preliminary findings of the district on the number of violations that occur:

Newport News Public Schools conducted three stop-arm cameras pilots using six buses, most recently during a three-month span in 2016. During that time, cameras captured 703 violations at 93 different stops.

Extrapolating from that data, it is evident that there are thousands of instances where children’s lives are put in peril by reckless drivers. Clearly some kind of aggressive enforcement is necessary.

That said, the mechanism for funding this initiative by Newport News seems wrongheaded. As Channel 13 reports: “There is no cost to the school district. The company recoups the money through the fines, and a portion of the money will also go to the school division.” I would prefer to have the funds come from both the police and school departments’ budgets. The schools could phase in the installation as they purchase new vehicles with the police department underwriting half of the cost for the video cameras and half of the budget for maintenance contracts with the video companies. The revenues should go to the police who, presumably, will use those funds as they see fit to provide more patrols to catch violators. Linking the cost for law enforcement tools to revenue generated by tickets seems like a bad direction. Taxpayers should be willing to foot the bill for new technologies without having a de facto bounty set to underwrite their costs.

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