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Eye in the Sky

Those blinking cameras

Remember that song, “Somebody’s Watching Me?”

All I want is to be left alone in my average home;
But why do I always feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone.
I always feel like somebody’s watching me.

It was one of those ubiquitous pop supernovas that you couldn’t get off your radio – or out of your head; a one-hit wonder by a guy named Rockwell, who sounded a whole lot like Michael Jackson, mostly because MJ sang background vocals on it. It burned up the charts and the club dance scene back in, appropriately, 1984.

And it’s back. In my average home. In my Twilight Zone. In yours, too. If you live in or venture onto the streets of New Orleans, here in 2018.

Outside the bedroom window of my apartment in Mid City, there is a white box attached to a utility pole, with flashing red and blue lights, all day, all night. When I go to sleep, they are there, flashing red and blue. When I wake up, they are there, flashing red and blue. Always, flashing red and blue.

On the underside of the white box is a dark orb, like one of those things you see on the ceilings at casinos – a camouflaged eye in the sky. On the side of the white box is an upside down crescent over a star – the logo of the New Orleans Police Department.

You must have seen them. They appeared swiftly and suddenly several months ago, all over town, like specters from an alien overlord. And that’s pretty much what they are.

Without public debate, the city installed hundreds of these flashing camera boxes in what the NOPD termed crime “hot spots.” I had no idea that my block was worthy of such an esteemed designation. The worst thing that happens here is some folks don’t pick up after their dogs.

And in a non-descript office on the edge of the French Quarter, a team of monitors is, well, monitoring everything that goes on within view of the cameras. It’s called the Real Time Crime Monitoring Center. We’re told it’s for crime prevention.

Then why the flashing red and blue lights to call attention? I guess they’re a heads up for anyone considering copping a dime bag or urinating on their neighbor’s yard.

Now look, like any New Orleanian, I’m game for new and creative means for reducing crime. But there comes a point where I object to my bedroom being considered a crime “hot spot.” As far as I know, that camera can look right at me when I’m shuffling around late at night in my tighty whities and tube socks, flossing, and watching reruns of “Mannix” on MeTV. (The same station that brings you nightly reruns of The Twilight Zone, by the way.)

I mean, do they really want to see me naked? Hell, I don’t even want to see me naked.

At the Monitoring Center, there are banks of video screens in constant rotation 24/7, with law enforcement officials keeping a watchful eye over – and perhaps into? – our homes. Wouldn’t they be better purposed on the streets that they’re watching?

I’d feel a lot safer with a cop on my street than a camera. All the camera can do is catch the guy who kills me, not prevent it. Then what good is that?

Just sayin’.

As a salve against public dissent, and to assure us that no unseemly voyeurism or inappropriate monitoring is afoot at the Monitoring Center, the NOPD says the monitors monitoring the Real Time Crime Monitors are themselves being monitored by other monitors.

So who’s monitoring those monitors?

It’s a little crazy and a lot creepy in our times to realize that everywhere you go, everything you do, every purchase you make, everyone you communicate with, how much money you have, every website you visit, every time you sneak a smoke, what music you listen to, what brand of toilet paper you prefer, every time you give the finger to a driver that cuts you off, and every time you put on women’s underwear is being loaded into a massive government data base.

And I guess that last one isn’t such a big deal if you’re a woman. But still.

And I’m no conspiracy theorist; far from it in fact. But it seems like the authorities have cameras recording everything we do outside the privacy of our bedrooms these days.

Unless, of course, one of those cameras is right outside your bedroom.


 

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