80 Cameras for 2,400 People
This story is about the remote town of Dillingham, Alaska, which is probably the most watched town in the country. There are 80 surveillance cameras for the 2,400 people, which translates to one camera for every 30 people.
The cameras were bought, I assume, because the town couldn't think of anything else to do with the $202,000 Homeland Security grant they received. (One of the problems of giving this money out based on political agenda, rather than by where the actual threats are.)
But they got the money, and they spent it. And now they have to justify the expense. Here's the movie-plot threat the Dillingham Police Chief uses to explain why the expense was worthwhile:
"Russia is about 800 miles that way," he says, arm extending right.
"Seattle is about 1,200 miles back that way." He points behind him.
"So if I have the math right, we're closer to Russia than we are to Seattle."
Now imagine, he says: What if the bad guys, whoever they are, manage to obtain a nuclear device in Russia, where some weapons are believed to be poorly guarded. They put the device in a container and then hire organized criminals, "maybe Mafiosi," to arrange a tramp steamer to pick it up. The steamer drops off the container at the Dillingham harbor, complete with forged paperwork to ship it to Seattle. The container is picked up by a barge.
"Ten days later," the chief says, "the barge pulls into the Port of Seattle."
Thompson pauses for effect.
"Phoooom," he says, his hands blooming like a flower.
The first problem with the movie plot is that it's just plain silly. But the second problem, which you might have to look back to notice, is that those 80 cameras will do nothing to stop his imagined attack.
We are all security consumers. We spend money, and we expect security in return. This expenditure was a waste of money, and as a U.S. taxpayer, I am pissed that I'm getting such a lousy deal.
Posted on March 29, 2006 at 1:13 PM • 48 Comments