Minding Your Own Business
Isn’t Enough to Keep You Out of Trouble…
Fidel Castro and his “neighborhood watch” squads used to be an embarrassment to his Carribean Stalinist regime. Sadly, here in America the U.S. government has been working on a program of its own to incentivize neighbors to spy on and turn in their neighbors. The Department of Homeland Security calls it “See Something, Say Something.” So much for Mayberry.
Numerous local law enforcement agencies have happily jumped on the federal grants bandwagon – cashing in on huge Homeland Security grants designed to militarize local police. The examples are endless. The Los Angeles Police Department has a program called iWatch: “…the iWATCH program is about behaviors and activities, not individuals.”
Is This Really Legitimate Law Enforcement?
What all this means is that in addition to protecting ourselves against warrantless electronic surveillance by law enforcement, we must be careful of neighbors or random people in a shopping center peeking at what we do and turning is in. Plenty of unfortunate cases exist where an anonymous tip led law enforcement agents to bang on the door of a law-abiding person minding his own business.
For instance, a proud father recently took a photo of his 11 year old and posted it online. It was his boy’s birthday and his son passed their state’s firearms safety test and earned his hunting license. So, the father gave him a .22 rifle as a gift, took a photo of his happy son, and posted it on Facebook. A stranger ruined that happy day by making an anonymous call about the photo to the Department of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). Two social services workers and four local police officers visited the family’s home to investigate and search the home, all without a warrant. The father held his ground and refused them access to his gun safe to catalogue his guns. It’s alleged that the social services workers threatened to take away the child if he didn’t comply with their demands.
In the end, the family won a small battle because the social service workers and armed police escort left without incident. Problems like these can go even deeper. The use of informants is coming under scrutiny lately. Due to harsh mandatory minimum sentences, even for minor crimes, prosecutors offer plea bargains – do hard time or snitch. Loyola Law School professor Alexandra Natapoff says, “The use of criminal informants is often very helpful in penetrating organized crime, but that’s not how we use criminal informants in this country – we use them everywhere.”
And in a number of instances, these snitches, trying to avoid a long prison sentence, ensnare innocent victims by manipulating them into crimes and then turn them over to their handlers. Their reward is getting off from doing hard time. It’s getting very scary out here. Surreal. Law enforcement’s growing illegitimacy puts social chaos on a supersonic track. Don’t wait for widespread chaos to overwhelm you. And remember… you’re not alone. We’re in this together.