Monday, May 27, 2013

Technology and Crime
1-9-13 WOSO Commentary

Recent murders in the US and Puerto Rico highlight the role of technology in crime that can be for good or evil. On the evil side, technology has taken a black eye respecting  violent video games and the unrestricted sale of assault weapons; on the good side is the enormous potential that technology can have in preventing and resolving crime.

The savage murder of a mother asphyxiated, stabbed and burned by her adopted son and his friend because she disciplined him too much brought home the insensitivity created by video games. When the police officer asked the son´s friend if he had felt any fear, the matter of fact answer was that he thought he was playing the video game Grand Theft  Auto IV in which the player scores points in carrying various violent criminal acts, . The very weak defense of the video game developer was that murder of a mother was not one of the crimes in the video game. This response is indicative of the insensibility to the problem.

The use of assault weapons in the Newtown Connecticut elementary school massacre brings to the forefront once more the controversy between firearm proponents led by the National Rifle Association and those like myself who understand there needs to have reasonable controls. A recent Business Week issue had a report that epitomizes how far the NRA will go to oppose any gun control measure. In 2007 Philadelphia, with a death rate of one person per day (sounds like a good rate in comparison to Puerto Rico, right?) wanted the state to implement a measure requiring persons to inform the police within 24 hours if their guns are sold, lost or stolen. The goal of the measure was to curb those who buy guns and sell them on the black market. The NRA fought this at the state level and after two years Philadelphia decided to pass this measure via a city ordinance. The NRA argued that this had to be legislated at the state level so this city ordinance has not been enforced.  In fact, the NRA has promoted legislation in Kentucky and Florida that penalizes local officials who promote or permit gun control measures. According to Business Week, and I quote, “under the Florida statute, municipal leaders who let any existing gun ordinances stand or who adopt new ones can be fined $5,000. They also can be fired by the Governor.”  Wow!

On the other hand, we all know that technology can be utilized positively to fight crimes. We have recently seen how cameras at ATM’s, public streets and plazas, and commercial locales have effectively identified criminals. Basta Ya has developed a program that permits an eye witness to contact the police on a confidential or non confidential basis with crime information. Another Puerto Rico group has developed a program regarding the location of illegal dumps. I foresee the day when cameras will be able to readily identify perpetrators, and provide the evidence to facilitate successful prosecutions with live videos of what took place and the contemporaneous testimony of witnesses.

Let’s continue to invest and promote privately and publicly in good technology that prevents and resolves crimes. We certainly have the incentive. We certainly have the talent. Do we have the will?  

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