Surveillance blimp infringes on privacy


The Daily Targum
January 18, 2011

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t
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If you have ever seen any of the comics in the Batman franchise, you may have noticed the Gotham City Police Department is a big fan of using blimps to patrol the streets. Perhaps Mayor Matthew Godfrey of Ogden, Utah is particularly fond of Batman’s adventures, because he recently proposed the city start taking cues from Batman’s fictional hometown and establish its own surveillance dirigible. The unmanned blimp would use military technology to watch Ogden from the skies, acting as a crime detector and deterrent. Aside from the comic-book-style outlandishness of the idea of a patrol blimp, there are more than a few things wrong with this concept.

Godfrey maintains the blimp is a cost-effective way to patrol Ogden, as it only needs one person to operate it and will only cost around $100 a month to maintain. However, Godfrey has not commented on how much the blimp itself will cost to assemble. For all of his excitement regarding the aircraft’s low cost, it is awfully suspicious that he is refusing to give the public a price tag. While it is impossible to know the exact figure, it is likely the construction of the blimp itself will be relatively pricey. Why doesn’t the city put that money into the police department in a less cartoonish — and more effective — way? For example, using the money to hire more police officers to patrol on foot, or at least better compensate the ones who already do. Officers on the ground seem like a much better deterrent than an airship. Isn’t Gotham City always in trouble, despite its formidable army of blimps?

What kind of response time will this blimp have? If it detects a crime in process, how easy will it be for the operator to report it to the police? And how long will it take for the police to arrive at the scene of the crime? The blimp may make a good sentinel but that is all it can be. It cannot act to stop any sort of crime, but a good old-fashioned, flesh-and-blood officer can.

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The most alarming thing about the blimp though, is the way in which it would militarize Ogden. Sure, the purpose of the blimp may be to watch for criminal activity, but it would also be watching the innocent citizens of the city live their day-to-day lives. That is unfair to them, and it treads uncomfortably close to an Orwellian police state.


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