Taibbi describes the incredible extent of surveillance in Camden:
“One hundred and twenty-one cameras cover virtually every inch of sidewalk here, cameras that can spot a stash in a discarded pack of Newports from
blocks away. Police have a giant 30-foot mobile crane called SkyPatrol they can park in a neighborhood and essentially throw a net over six square
blocks; the ungainly Japanese-robot-style device can read the heat signature of a dealer with a gun sitting in total darkness. There are 35
microphones planted around the city that can instantly detect the exact location of a gunshot down to a few meters (and just as instantly train
cameras on escape routes). Planted on the backs of a fleet of new cruisers are Minority Report-style scanners that read license plates and
automatically generate warning letters to send to your mom in the suburbs if you’ve been spotted taking the Volvo registered in her name to score a
bag of Black Magic on 7th and Vine.”
Like citizens of the Middle East subjected to the all-seeing eye of the U.S. government, citizens of Camden can feel as though their every move is
watched. Being spotted doing something illegal, or suspected of which, brings a drone-like sudden materialization of cops, as though out of thin
Taibbi explains that citizens “have even begun to ascribe to the police powers they don’t actually have.” He spoke to a resident of Camden who’d heard
the rumor that the police have facial-recognition scanners on their cars “so that when you go by ‘em, they see if you are wanted for anything,” the
The surveillance regime has begun to fulfill the foresight of postmodern philosopher Michel Foucault, who theorized about the internalization of state
discipline in a future era of constant surveillance. In his landmark 1975 Discipline and Punish, he described a dystopian circumstance wherein the
individual “must never know whether he is being looked at at any one moment; but he must be sure that he may always be so.” Camden’s citizens who
imagine greater powers of surveillance and invasive knowledge are Foucauldian subjects come to life off of his pages.
Last year, Camden embarked further into Foucauldian territory when it began enlisting citizens to help monitor the matrix of cameras. Such a
surveillance regime is “destined to spread throughout the social body,” Foucault predicted, “since we are part of its mechanism.” Citizens are now
invited to surveil each other, becoming at once both police and potential suspect.
Big brother is indeed watching you and you are complicit in its roll out.