February 28, 2024

Letter to the Editor: Tracking criminals

The new license plate readers are going to allow the Newton Police Department to track criminals. Apparently they are to be placed at the main entrances/exits to the City of Newton. The express purpose is to track criminals coming and going from the city.

Apparently we want to know when they come into town and when they leave; or as was stated catching “fleeing criminals.” The quote, worth noting, is “We’re trying to hit the gateways to the community. We’re trying to, first off, keep the bad guys out. And if they do come in, we’re going to know they’re here. Apparently there will be a gate at the entrance to town which automatically lowers if the license plate reader identifies a criminal.

Of course, the assumption is that the bad guys will have some sort of banner or sign or insignia of some sort identifying themselves as bad guys. “Hello, Newton! I’m a bad guy here to do dastardly things to your town and citizens.” Don’t even bother pulling in off the interstate, we are ready for you.

But not so fast, maybe the cameras can help with local criminals as well. Of course the problem with all this is, who are the criminals? The answer of course, is all of us. We are all criminals — the State of Iowa has made it possible to make us all criminals subject to stop, search, and arrest. If you exceed the speed limit, if you don’t come to a complete stop and hold it for five seconds, if you don’t put on your seat belt, if you don’t signal to turn, if you cross the center line — you are a criminal and the new cameras will find you.

So when our police chief tells us the cameras are going to make us safer, it simply will make it easier to keep track of us all. It’s called surveillance; the police will be able to see who is moving around day and night. “Hey Joe, why were you driving down the road at 3 a.m.?” “Up to no good were you?” “You better watch it, we are on to you.”

The whole idea of license plate readers is to keep track of the citizens of Newton and those who visit it. We read about China’s surveillance of its citizens and wonder how they can live that way. Well, there is very little difference. The ability to monitor the citizens of this country is in place. We are told that it will not be used for that purpose. But there will come a time when it will be used for exactly the reasons they say they will not use it now. It is inevitable folks.

Richard E. H. Phelps II