Remember when all there was to do was watch the neighbors..?
When her baby girl takes an afternoon nap, or on those nights when she just can’t sleep, Sarah Andrews, 32, tosses off her identity as a suburban stay-at-home mom and becomes something more exotic: a “virtual deputy” patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border.
From her house in a suburb of Rochester, New York, Andrews spends at least four hours a day watching a site called BlueServo.net.
There, because of a $2 million grant from the state of Texas, anyone in the world can watch grainy live video scenes of cactuses, desert mountains and the Rio Grande along Texas’ portion of the international border.
When Andrews spots something she deems suspicious — perhaps a fuzzy character moving from right to left across the screen or people wading through the river with what appear to be trash bags atop their heads — she and the site’s 43,000 registered users can send e-mail messages straight to local law enforcement, who then decide whether to act.
“Today, there’s a couple vehicles that are parked side by side next to each other,” she said by phone, her 7-month-old cooing in the background, “but I can’t tell what’s going on, you know?”
You know, I don’t generally pontificate much on the waste of taxpayer dollars. But this particular scheme struck me as, er, a pretty pathetic example of that…and that was before I even got to this part:
Since the site was launched in late November, only four arrests can be attributed to the cameras, said Don Reay, executive director of the sheriffs’ coalition, which runs the project with money from Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s office.
All of those arrests were related to marijuana trafficking, he said, with about 2,000 pounds of the drug seized.
Those aren’t the kind of results planners were looking for when they started the program, but Reay says the program’s unseen value is in the fact that it prevents drug-related violence and trafficking.
Yeah, marijuana, the drug scourge of the United States! (eye. roll.)
He said sheriffs along the border have seen decreased crime in recent months, partly because of the camera program, although he said he could not cite statistics to back up that claim.
Further descent into ludicrousness:
Abernethy and Andrews, the two “virtual deputies,” said they would like to see greater transparency in the project. Both said they have e-mailed notes of suspicious activity to law enforcement, but neither has heard whether their alerts were of any help.
“It’s interesting. You see different things on there, but I just — I don’t know that it’s doing any good,” said Andrews, the stay-at-home mom. “I wonder if it’s a waste of time.”
Answer: YES!! …hello?!
She also said the site draws her interest because she’s nosy
Abernethy said he will continue to watch the cameras because he feels like he’s part of an altruistic group of volunteers. Friends tease him about watching the site, he said. But he sees it as no worse than any other form of quick entertainment — and maybe he can be of some help in the process.
“It’s no different than watching ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ reruns,” he said. “It’s just something to do.
DUDE…TV shows at least pretend to have a plot. With people. Speaking dialogue. To each other. Security cameras are not entertainment…the fact that you are able to think so is not something I would admit in public if I were you. Ever thought of taking a correspondence course? or going bowling? buying a kitten..? something?