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High tech tools to stop the Washington Sniper
[October 15, 2002]

By Nicholas Provenzo

I live in Northern Virginia and today I caught myself doing something I never have done before—actively scanning my surroundings for signs the DC sniper. Be it dumb luck or whatever, I have been a customer to four of the locations that the sniper has struck prior to his reign of terror, and I visited one location as recent as last week. Add my fears to the fears of a whole region and it's clear this individual needs to be caught and caught soon.

Consider me pleased then on hearing news that the Department of Defense is loaning some if its high tech surveillance gear to local police to aid them in their investigation. Top on the list is the DOD's unmanned area vehicles (UAV's) that would allow the police to track vehicles fleeing the scene of a shooting.

I was a pilot for a UAV test program when I was in the Marine Corps and I am familiar with some of the technology. UAV's are able to stay on station for hours sending TV and infrared images to ground controllers. Since they cost less to maintain then manned aerial surveillance, its easier to use them to cover more more ground for longer. Hopefully, UAV's are in the air now, standing by to provide law enforcement with the information it needs to catch the sniper next time he strikes.

But with such surveillance, there are always those who believe that the individual's right to privacy is threatened and that the government is becoming Big Brother. This time they are wrong. UAV's, traffic cameras, and cameras placed in public spaces do not threaten an individual's right to privacy, but they are a threat to criminals. These cameras are in public places, where no one has an expectation of privacy and where people are routinely visible to everyone.

It's chilling to contemplate that the most likely scenario for the the police to capture the sniper is for the sniper to strike again. Hopefully, if that's to be the case, high tech tools will give police the edge they need to take the sniper off our streets once and for all.

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