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What the octopus can teach Chicago about security

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If Chicago's proliferating police surveillance cameras are so great, the question goes, why don't they seem to be stopping crime?

Chicago's network of 10,000 public and private cameras is the most extensive in the nation. But all those cameras aren't necessarily making people feel safer.

Maybe it's time to consider the lowly octopus.

In the May 20 issue of Nature, University of Arizona scientists say the design of security systems might improve if experts looked to the natural world. The octopus' defensive camouflaging, for example, isn't run strictly from a central command center, but by networks of pigment cells distributed throughout its body.

Researchers concluded the most successful defenses in the natural world are those that avoid centralization and instead distribute the responsibility for security to decentralized groups of cells or, in a large group, to individuals.

It raises the question of whether Chicago's surveillance camera network is as useful as it can be.

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6 Comments

I notice that one of the results of the British election is talk about cutting back on what they now consider an excessive number of surveillance cameras.

It seems to me the issue is not really cameras but the handcuffing of police to do their jobs effectively. If the Mayor and the politicians really want to curb crime they should get out of the police business and let the Superintendent run the department. They should worry about lawsuits (which are inevitable) and policy and let the police do what they do best, catch criminals.

The crime will always be a problem with multiple solutions. There is one problem that I would like to gather attention for. Everyday, there are airplanes flying close to downtown buildings. It is not every plane but a select few that run close to The Sears/Willis Tower and The Hancock Building. Please watch next time a plane flies downtown next time. It is not every plane but at least a few times a day they fly within a baseball toss distant of our beloved buildings.

If it is so burdensome for the Police to watch, and the communities want to help, why don't they put the feed online, and give access to people in the neighborhoods to assist in policing themselves?

Decentralized defense, like the octopus' cells:

1. Empower groups of citizens with cell phones to patrol.

2. Repeal the handgun ban.

3. Allow open carry / concealed weapons permits for citizens.

4. Let citizens in high-crime neighborhoods form armed militias.

There are serious problems with some of the foregoing suggestions,
especially the open carry/concealed weapons idea. Everyone isn't physically coordinated, despite denials and fantasies of excellence in pop culture. Doesn't anyone recall the recent accidental shooting of a woman in a public restroom? One woman dropped her gun on the floor, where it discharged into the next stall, hitting the victim in her leg. Legalize weapons more broadly and we will have a rerun of the Wild West, as well as many more shooting accidents. We already have TOO MANY as things now stand.

The psychology of people who love guns, want them, have them, is simple: they want to feel powerful and secure. Guns can't really
provide such a feeling in any seriously reality-based way, alas. In a dangerous world (it's always BEEN dangerous) any true security comes from within, not from outside the person.

I wish people would stop aping movie "heroes" and get back to business, which involves paying attention, not being out alone
late at night, not getting into arguments after imbibing, etc. Humans are absolutely their own worst enemies!

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