- - Tuesday, February 11, 2014


It’s important for the police to have as many tools as possible at their disposal to catch criminals and bring them to justice. Yet there are some proposed crime-fighting strategies that should be avoided. Here’s one of them.

On Jan. 29, the United Kingdom’s Daily Telegraph revealed a “secret plan” (which clearly isn’t secret any longer) hatched by senior European Union police officers to put a “remote-stopping device” in all vehicles within six years.

This surveillance device, according to Telegraph reporters Bruno Waterfield and Matthew Day, “would allow the police to disable vehicles at the flick of a switch from a control room.” The engine of a car “used by a fugitive or other suspect would stop, the supply of fuel would be cut and the ignition switched off.”

In turn, it would help bring “dangerous high-speed car chases to an end and to make redundant current stopping techniques” like puncturing a tire.

While some people might support remote-stop cars as a way to crack down on crime, I’m not one of them. In my opinion, this would be a terrible decision on many levels.

For one thing, the EU’s proposed remote device would give extensive — and unnecessary — control to the state over vehicles. As United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage nicely put it, this measure would be a “draconian imposition,” and it’s “appalling they are even thinking of it.”

“People must protest against this attack on their liberty and vote against an EU big-brother state during the Euro election in May.”

Look at this way. Most people would agree that criminals involved in high-speed car chases are a huge threat to our personal safety, security and well-being.

Yet if an individual supports the basic principles of freedom, liberty and democracy, he will be losing huge chunks of those key elements with a remote stopping device that he can’t control.

If that’s not Orwellian in nature, I don’t know what is.

Meanwhile, can EU police departments guarantee that the right vehicle would always be stopped? No, they can’t.

Electronic devices malfunction on a regular basis. Moreover, there are many instances when vital personal information has been incorrectly entered into a mainframe computer.

Hence, if the wrong car was ever remotely stopped, a terrible situation could get even worse. What if it happens to be your vehicle?

Giving the state the ability to remotely stop cars could also lead to possible mischief by outside sources. Computer hackers come in all shapes and sizes, and there have been a steady litany of security risks and computer viruses.

We’ve read about instances where major banks, newspapers, personal websites, and databases in organizations such as NASA, the CIA and even the Pentagon have been hacked.

Accordingly, the EU’s remote-stopping device would be seen as a brand-new challenge by the so-called “hacktivists.” They would immediately pounce on this opportunity to become the first person to bring down the entire system.

Anyone who thinks this code couldn’t be cracked is, well, cracked. The possibility of mischief by individual police officers can’t be discounted, either.

While I have an enormous amount of respect for the brave men and women in blue, there are bad apples in every bunch. The mere knowledge of the whereabouts of the main control room for these surveillance devices could be enough to set off a disgruntled police officer or two.

If this were ever to happen, I wouldn’t want to be working in a police bureau’s communications department that day.

There are far more viable strategies that could be employed to crack down on crime, including earmarking more government funds for the police forces, hiring more police officers to keep our streets safe, and putting more police cars on the roads.

While none of these tactics would remotely stop a car involved in a high-speed chase, each one would help protect our individual liberties and freedoms — and prevent any possible safety and security breaches from occurring.

To be fair, the EU hasn’t implemented a state-run program to remotely stop cars just yet. If they ever decide to proceed with this strategy, it would be an unwise move.

In turn, other countries, including the United States, would be wise to avoid it like the plague.

Michael Taube is a contributor to The Washington Times.

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