Jewish World Review Dec. 9, 2004 / 26 Kislev, 5765

David Chartrand

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Cameras and catching cheaters | As the saying has it, "If it is good to secretly videotape the goose then it's also good to videotape the gander." Not my saying, of course, but it brings to mind the current debate in many states about letting police departments install hidden camera at intersections to catch drivers who speed or run red lights.

If it's a good idea to catch cheaters, then why stop at traffic lights? I see an opportunity here for Americans to make a statement that we will not tolerate dishonesty in any form. I see an opportunity to install hidden cameras everywhere cheaters can be found:

  • in the private offices of state legislators and government officials who feel sincerely that there is nothing wrong with using their cell phones, computers and office stationery for personal business

  • in the homes of families with teenaged children, so police can spy on moron parents who host beer-drinking parties for high school students

  • on boat docks and marinas at all public lakes, to nab people fishing without permits and underage children illegally operating ski boats and personal watercraft

  • in the private meeting chambers where city councils, school boards and other local hold "executive sessions" that are barred to the public and the media. How can we tell if our elected officials are cheating if we can't even see them?

  • in public parking lots, so police can get the license numbers of those who block fire lanes, illegally park in handicapped stalls and leave small children in cars unattended

  • along grocery store aisles, to catch red-handed the rascals who eat food directly off the salad bar or stand in the Express Lane with more than 12 items in their carts

  • in bookstore coffee shops, which are a haven for scofflaws who read books and newspapers without paying for them and then walk away leaving the pages covered with coffee stains and biscotti crumbs.

  • in accountants' offices, where cameras would document every taxpayer's response when asked, "Do you have written logs to document that all of these telephone and automobile deductions were business-related?"

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As you can see, those who want hidden cameras at traffic lights may have opened a Pandora's box and pulled out a can of worms. Do you know how many remote-controlled video cameras we will need to catch all those who break rules in their cars, offices and homes? Neither do I. We'd also need a huge, wasteful bureaucracy to examine all these tapes and track down the cheaters. It would be called the Department of Dishonesty, which I think is a great name for a government agency.

I suppose some will ask: "What about the government agencies that do the videotaping? What if they cheat? Who's going to videotape them?" This is a good question, but we have to draw the line somewhere.

After all, if you can't trust a snooping, eavesdropping, videotaping, big-brother government, who can you trust?

JWR contributor David Chartrand is a First Place Award winner from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and has been honored by the Society for his humor writing. Enjoy his colums? You'll love his book, author of "A View from the Heartland: Everyday Life in America" (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR).

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© 2004, David Chartrand