As reported, Thomas Insley – a 16 year old Chicago resident – was walking home from the magnate highschool which he attends, when he was attacked by up to 4 assailants. Insley was placed in a choke hold and beaten by the robbers, who stole his iPod and $20 in his wallet, before fleeing. Insley was rendered unconscious, suffered a broken nose, had multiple teeth loosened or knocked out, and required hospitalization. The robbery took place near one of the Chicago Police Department’s rather prominent cameras, which are conspicuously equipped with flashing blue lights. Insley is said to have taken this particular route home from school because he felt safer near the police camera.
As San Fransisco has already learned, the simple fact is that police cameras do little – if anything – to stop crime. Even under the best circumstances, they can’t stop an in-progress crime, as simply recording the crime as it unfolds does nothing to save the victim. Such cameras are also rather ineffective at preventing crime, because there is no immediate negative consequence for a criminal who commits a crime in front of the cameras. Instead, a criminal who commits a crime in front of a camera might only feel the effect months or years later, if the evidence is ever used against them in the court (which is itself rather unlikely to occur). Making matters worse, violent criminals are, by definition, people who are willing to accept serious long-term risks (e.g. imprisonment or death) in exchange for a modest immediate gain (e.g. $20 and an iPod). Whether those criminals are going through drug withdrawals and will do anything to get money for their next high, or simply don’t care about future consequences, the risk of being prosecuted with camera footage is not an effective deterrent. In sum, as Thomas Insley learned, police cameras won’t save a crime victim.
However, such cameras do come at cost. Firstly, there is the financial cost. Such cameras are expensive, and the money spent on those cameras could be put to better use elsewhere in the police departments’ budgets. Then there is the civil liberty cost of having the authorities watch so many people as they go about their lives. Given the ineffectiveness of the cameras, coupled with the financial and non-financial costs, such police cameras seem to be a poor use of taxpayer money.
The solution to the problem of violent crime, in my humble opinion, is armed self defense. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that we arm 16 year old students. However, if the law-abiding adult members of society were armed for self defense, robbers such as those who beat Thomas Insley may be shot in self defense and permanently removed from the streets before they can victimize as many people. Indeed, even learning of another criminal’s demise at the hands of their would-be victim would have a chilling effect upon other would-be criminals, as studies have shown.
Had the violent criminals who attacked Thomas Insley encountered an armed victim earlier that day, week, month, or year, Insley’s walk home from school might have been as uneventful as usual. Sadly, too many Illinois residents have bought in to the anti-gun fear-mongering by people such as Jessie Jackson and Chicago’s Mayor Daley. As a result, Illinois is one of only two states that continues to completely ban concealed carry, ensuring that only the criminals are armed.