Saturday, April 08, 2017

Watching Each Other

In November, 2015 Donald Trump called 

for increased domestic security measures, namely a "database" of Muslims in the country. Now he has a new tactic in mind: getting people to spy on their neighbors.

“The real greatest resource is all of you, because you have all those eyes and you see what’s happening,” the business mogul told the crowd at a rally in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Tuesday night, according to The Hill. “People move into a house a block down the road, you know who’s going in,” he said. "You can see and you report them to the local police."

He acknowledged this wouldn't be a perfect system: “We know if there’s something going on, report them. Most likely you’ll be wrong, but that’s OK."

"Getting people to spy on their neighbors," the Time reporter cynically, but accurately, noted. Donald Trump may be an inspiration, albeit in a state wise enough  to have decisively rejected him last November.  Ashleigh Albert of The Philadelphia Inquirer reports

Drivers on New Jersey state highways can now dial #77 to report distracted driving, the Division of Highway Traffic Safety announced Thursday. Since 1995, #77 in New Jersey has been used to report aggressive driving. It will now support both types of calls.

The initiative is the first of its kind nationally, according to the Division of Highway Traffic Safety. Pennsylvania does not have a hotline to report aggressive driving.

Of course it's the first of its kind nationally, because it's a lousy idea.  However, it's hard to tell that to a father who lost his 18-year-old daughter to a driver using his cell phone:

“A lot of people don’t even bother to report distracted driving, but it’s the same thing as drunk driving, which is why I support the initiative 100 percent. I think it’s a great thing and offers hope,” Kellenyi said.

No, it's not the same thing. There is actually a means, the breathalyzer, to verify an individual is driving while intoxicated, and a standard which is determined legislatively.  A charge of driving while distracted is far more vague, more difficult to enforce, and subject to varying interpretations and abuse.

A State Police dispatcher simulated use of the system when she

seemingly asked a caller who had dialed #77 for the make, model, color, and license-plate number of the car, if possible. She then forwarded the call to the corresponding local police agency, which will send local officers to the scene. If the behavior was later witnessed by an officer, a summons could be issued.

Regrettably, we are not told specifically that this would constitute a "chargeable offense," allowing insurance companies to raise their rates, perenially among the highest in the nation.  In either case, it will provide a nice revenue boost for local governments.

New Jersey's Attorney General probably is aware of the irony of encouraging drivers to use their cell phones to call police to tell them other drivers are using their cell phones, yet

emphasized the importance of not becoming a distracted driver in order to report other reckless drivers. Drivers are encouraged to pull over, use a hands-free headset, or have a passenger make the call.

If the license-plate number of the allegedly distracted driver is provided, a letter detailing the incident will be sent to the vehicle owner's home.

For those keeping score at home, the governor of the State of New Jersey (currently Republican Chris Christie) is very generously empowered constitutionally and has the power to appoint an Attorney General partial to a big, intrusive government (libertarian proving even a stopped clock is right twice a day, below).

It should be a boon for estranged husbands or wives. Imagine the ability to tell your wife as she flies out the door (perhaps with the child you've been arguing over) that the local police department will be notified of her driving behavior. That will do wonders for the family unit.

In all fairness, New Jersey isn't the first place to ask citizens to keep a close watch on their neighbors, just as Donald Trump wasn't the first politician who believes they should keep tabs on them. Bahrain, Vietnam, Iran, and China have elevated it to an art form.  And Syria.

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