Sunday, December 21, 2008

You ought to be in pictures

When I've written about radar-activated speed cameras in the past, I've objected to the robotic menaces primarily on the grounds that they were fallible revenue machines for the state rather than legitimate means of protecting life and limb. It never occurred to me that the dumb electronic brutes were also handy tools for wreaking revenge on enemies and authority figures. That was clearly a lapse of imagination on my part.

An undated article in the Montgomery Sentinel of Montgomery County, Maryland, reports:

Originating from Wootton High School, the parent said, students duplicate the license plates by printing plate numbers on glossy photo paper, using fonts from certain websites that "mimic" those on Maryland license plates. They tape the duplicate plate over the existing plate on the back of their car and purposefully speed through a speed camera, the parent said. The victim then receives a citation in the mail days later.

Students are even obtaining vehicles from their friends that are similar or identical to the make and model of the car owned by the targeted victim, according to the parent.

"Brilliant," is my first reaction, though I've not been on the receiving end of such a prank. But still, my second reaction is also, "brilliant."

Of course, if you're one of the people undeservedly pranked by such a scam, it's awful. You get a ticket in the mail imposing a fine for a crime you never committed. And the same thing could, conceivably, be inflicted on you over and over again, leaving you to argue to the authorities that their lucrative ATM machines traffic control cameras are easily gamed toys.

As Montgomery County Council President Phil Andrews comments, "It will cause potential problems for the Speed Camera Program in terms of the confidence in it."

Well, yes. There is reason to lose confidence in a law enforcement program that has become an easy means of inflicting harassment and revenge on unsuspecting targets. One might even suggest that a system so easily turned to nefarious ends was ... hmmm ... a really lousy idea.

Oh, by the way ... Does anybody know what plates are on the Arizona governor's official vehicle? Just asking.



Blogger Johnny said...

They've been re-named `Safety Cameras' in the UK. How come they haven't all been perforated with .22 calibre bullets in the States?

December 22, 2008 2:47 PM  
Blogger J.D. Tuccille said...

Great question ... Frankly, shooting the damned things down makes the most sense.

In Arizona, they're mostly concentrated in the high-density Phoenix area right now, so people might be reticent about trying out their target practice. The plan is to spread 'em around the state, though, and the rest of the state is mostly rural. I would hope that means more opportunities to break out the high-velocity stuff.

December 22, 2008 7:54 PM  
Blogger Oddsman M. said...

The one near me still lives because I'm no longer 16 years old, but I still hate it. Hopefully, the neighborhood 16 year olds will eventually step up to the plate.

What I've been tempted to do is stencil the word "Orwellian" onto their sign proclaiming the intersection "an experiment." Haven't gotten around to that, either, but it's more likely than the .22 with me.

December 23, 2008 8:36 AM  

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