Opinion Your Views — 08 May 2014
Recent articles cast undue aspersions on Alexandria’s police department

By Jack T. Pitzer, Alexandria
(File Photo)

To the editor:

I must take exception to the slant and implications of two articles in the April 24 edition of the Alexandria Times.

First, the headline and story about red-light cameras in Alexandria was an example of incomplete analysis (“Red-light cameras fail to reduce crashes”). Comparing the number of crashes over time means nothing without other data. How many vehicles were caught running red lights in each of those years? How many vehicles traveled through the intersections in each of those years? Were there other intersections with equivalent or more crashes without the presence of cameras?

The article also presumes that the only reason for red-light cameras is to eliminate vehicle crashes. Again, this is only part of the story. The purpose of the cameras is to enforce the law against running red lights in a resource-scarce city where it would be impossible to station officers at these intersections 24/7. The two intersections were chosen because of the propensity of drivers to violate the law at those locations.

Second, the subhead on the article about license plate readers reveals the reporter’s failure to understand the use of those cameras, and it fails to differentiate between data gathering (something that even newspapers do) and surveillance.

“Surveillance” means to keep close watch on someone for the purpose of evidence gathering, supervision or control. Police conduct surveillance when they have suspicion or evidence about a possible crime.

If the reporter’s vehicle license was captured in proximity to crime scenes on a regular basis, I expect that the connection of these information points might lead to her being under surveillance. As it is, they are merely data in a file of mostly law-abiding residents.

Alexandria has one of the most professional and competent police departments in the nation. To imply otherwise, as your articles do, is to do a disservice to these fine men and women.

 

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