About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

01 June 2009

Security and Liberty

According to the Mail and Guardian, the founder of Auto and General (a South African short term insurance company) has offered the government R1 Billion to fund a new approach to crime fighting.

Essentially his plan is to provide a lot more technology tools - satellites, helicopter patrols, computers etc. While the motivation is certainly noble, as is the business motivation (less crime leads to less theft leading to less payouts for A&G), two questions need to be asked.

1) Is funding the main cause of South Africa's, so far, unsuccessful battle against crime. And,

2) Are high tech solutions such as satelites and CCTV cameras worth it.

On the first question - I don't think money itself is an issue. The South African police need better pay, better training, more motivation, better tools. I somehow doubt R1 billion is what the government has been missing and thus could not implement. That said, every little bit helps.

In terms of high tech solutions, I am reminded of the quote:
"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." --- Benjamin Franklin
that is often brought up in privacy papers (and in Civ 4). There is always a trade-off between security and indiviual liberty. The tighter the security controls, the less individual liberty and vice-versa. It would be good for the police to all have computer systems that can efficiently capture reports (crime, accidents etc) and provide correlation of different crimes in terms of time and location. However, linking police solutions to high end monitoring solutions such as CCTV cameras with facial recognition would start to erode liberty that South Africa struggled to achieve.

Ultimately, the root causes of crime in South Africa, including the lack-lusture justice system need to be addressed. Better policing will help, but not necessary solve the problem.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The issue at hand of liberty vs. security has been discussed at length and we see that the deployment of cameras in places have reduced the levels of crime somewhat. As in the UK it also shows up police brutality and other matters that is not generally socially acceptable, leading to a more “secure state”.
I feel that what A&G has proposed is in fact a very generous approach and one that if followed but the other major short term offices would contribute significantly to the reduction of a problem that is affecting way too many of us. Losing a TV, computer or other household articles to burglary and theft puts a burden on general society and we transfer that risk to our insurance office. Way too often I feel the insecurity when walking the streets and use my cell phone. This item when “liberated” form me will be recycled very soon, accumulating many more talk minutes, therefore gaining revenue for the thief as well as the cell phone provides that keeps on selling airtime, irrespective of provider or country.
Moreover, the real beneficiary to this crime are not the parties already mentioned, but the state, as the sales tax form the sale of “new” air time, the VAT for the sale of the new phone and the “additional” revenue and taxable profits of the service providers all contribute to the “coffers”.
We as the public that pay for private security (how I believe is just another local scam), insurance and other risk mitigation efforts should stand together and refuse to pay VAT on these service as we are funding a corrupt “state” that should be providing these services through our taxes. Moreover, when faced with a loss we should be able to submit our additional contributions to the state taxes (paid as VAT) as s tax reduction, as we are replacing an asset with like for like, with no enrichment through the claim on insurance, but the additional sale of the goods to rack up more taxes to .gov!