- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 18, 2000

Cop cars with a dummy "officer" sitting behind the wheel have been used for years to dissuade motorists from violating traffic laws. Now the first fake photo radar unit has been put into service at the intersection of Duke Street and West Taylor Run Parkway in Alexandria. The "camera" is just an empty but very visible metal box, accompanied by a sign that cautions motorists "Warning: Photo Red Light Enforcement." Though it isn't real, the camera has supposedly cut red light-running at this intersection by half.

Arguably, though, the real issue here is the use of 24-hour surveillance real or implied as a tool of law-enforcement, and how passively this is being accepted as normal. Certainly, photo radar has cut down impressively on red light-running. And while that is unquestionably a good thing, it is also legitimate to be concerned about the principle being established. Do we really want to walk through life under the constant scrutiny of cameras and video monitors, at the other end of which is a government bureaucrat?

We are still a long way from the "hard" tyrannies depicted in such works as George Orwell's "1984." But the "softer," more benevolent style of "for your own good" government, such as that depicted in Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World," is no less a threat to the liberties we once so jealously guarded. Practices such as the use of 24-hour photo radar may be a signpost telling us just how far down that road we've already traveled.

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