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See no evil, hear no evil

Wednesday, May 14, 2014
London Calling

Solange really packs a punch. Look at Jay-Z, backing off as she lashes out kicking and screaming. Her sister, reticent. The bouncer, intervening, risking serious injury. 


Should we have seen that squabble? How was the footage released and should it have been? Was it an invasion of privacy? 


That the footage was leaked and published by TMZ was a reminder—nothing carried out in public places is private any more.


Britain is a surveillance state; our city streets are filmed night and day. Every movement is recorded in real time, stored on tape, watched back at will, from street to train station, casino, park, pub, shop. It’s part of the police detection system. 


I have no problem with it. In fact, I like it. Unlike a lot of people I don’t mind being the target of voyeurism and I don’t mind my privacy being invaded if it protects me and others. I’m not raping, murdering or dealing drugs, so why should I object to the proliferation of CCTV on the streets of Britain? One camera for every 32 people, according to reports. 


In Trinidad, there are reportedly 62 cameras per 100,000 people. Murders, rapes, shootings and stabbings, are committed with total impunity. All you have to be is nimble-footed and a little bit smart to commit a crime and get away with it. 


Dana Seetahal’s murder, and her life, were brilliantly captured in BC Pires’ column last Friday. He constructed a detective novel/crime thriller/film noir pastiche of the events leading to her death and recalled the remarkable life of a woman who, unlike many people, honed and employed the full capability of her intelligence and integrity to grapple with, and scale, the intimidating heights of a justice system, indeed a social system, where wrongdoing is wilful, blasé, tolerated, accepted and rampant. 


His tribute to Dana and her family was beautiful and moving. The literary depiction, the way he climbed inside her mind, nothing could have been better. Nobody else thought about it in that way. He lived it, her life and her final moments. 


The ultimate tribute in her eyes, however, would be for her killers to be brought to justice in an efficient no-nonsense judicial way. From what I hear, she didn’t tolerate nonsense. 


I never got to meet her but last year I telephoned her for comments on the proposed anti-gang laws. After ten seconds of me explaining who I was and why I wanted to speak to her she told me, “I’m very busy. I don’t have time for this,” and hung up. 


At the time I was mildly annoyed. In hindsight, I’m enamoured. 


There were infinitely more important things she was attending to than a reporter chasing a story. She was dealing with real people’s lives in a criminal justice system that operates on the margins of reality, surrealism and farce.


Her ambush should have been witnessed, if not by people then at least by surveillance cameras. Had the murder taken place in London, the vehicles would have been traced almost immediately, their prior routes, getaway routes, the incident itself all recorded. The assailants would have been identifiable on camera renting the vehicles, getting in them, abandoning them. 


So were the rioters in the UK in 2011, the Boston marathon bombers, the 9/11 suspects, 7/7 suspects—all shown repeatedly on international TV news within hours.


Even unofficial footage is publicised. Like Mr Carter’s fight with his in-law in the elevator, like John Galliano’s anti-semitic tirade at a bar in Paris.


We are told 13 cameras lined the route Dana took. Where’s the footage?


Surveillance has solved countless crimes in the UK and so has DNA evidence. Traces of explosives from guns can be used to link shooters, their clothes and vehicles to crimes.


Many sickening historic crimes which otherwise would have gone unsolved forever have been solved using blood, semen and skin tissue samples. Murderers who thought they had escaped the law are behind bars. 


Time and technology has moved on. T&T has enough money to spend on its citizens. Education, fuel, health... What about its citizens’ lives? Are they that cheap that we can’t afford to install police cameras on road lights, street corners, shop fronts, promenades?


Particularly when we have such a low rate of homicide detection—under ten per cent compared to 65 per cent in the UK. Particularly when we are gaining a reputation for lawlessness and crime that is undermining the country on many levels internationally. 


Is privacy so sacred we will allow people to be killed? Is our genetic data such a personal privilege we’re prepared to let rapists and murderers escape?


If the answer is yes, then we may as well be living in pre-technology times where nothing was recordable, nothing was detectable and killers got away with murder. 


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