Rich Seattle suburbs install ubiquitous surveillance cameras, cops follow all "suspicious" vehicles

Jennie sez, "Two Seattle suburbs (of the super affluent persuasion) are monitoring and recording every vehicle that enter their town limits. If you happen to have had a past criminal infraction, you will be followed by police. Creepy and overzealous! By the way, residents of these towns are so community oriented that they also refuse to pay property tax to support their local county library system. But don't worry, they're 'not elitist at all,' according to a local council member."
In Medina, a new sign bears this warning: "You Are Entering a 24 Hour Video Surveillance Area..."

Medina -- a city of 3,100 with an average household income of $222,000 -- had discussed the idea for years as a way to discourage crime, city officials said.

Last year, there were 11 burglaries, Chen said.

"Some people think [that number of burglaries] is tolerable," he said. "But even one crime is intolerable."

Medina City Councilmember Lucius Biglow said crime prevention "outweighs concern over privacy."

"Privacy is considerably less nowadays than it was, say, 50 years ago," he said. "I think most of us are pretty well-documented by the federal government ... simply because of the Internet and credit cards."

Cameras keep track of all cars entering Medina (Thanks, Jennie!)



  1. Now that’s remarkable…you’d think at least a few of the folks making the decisions would have a mistress in the same town and not want to be filmed constantly or go through the trouble of travel…

    Must all get their jollies at work, I suppose.

  2. It’s a big word, but not as big as in the headline. Ubiquitous, I mean.

    ANYway: “If you happen to have had a past criminal infraction, you will be followed by police.”

    Who says? The article says that there’s an automated system that alerts the cops if your license plate comes up with a felony hit.

  3. @#2- Ooh, just thought of a problem with the following issue– you get a couple dozen buddies who’ve done time, get all the cops following them…and then start robbing houses.

  4. “Some people think 11 burglaries is tolerable,” he said. “But even one crime is intolerable.”

    That’s the crux of the whole issue. Please define “intolerable”. The POLICE CHIEF, thinks that just ONE crime is INTOLERABLE. How did he rise to such a position of authority with absolutely no understanding of basic statistics?

    If public figures display their ignorance as a badge, then that should be the only badge they get.

  5. I hope the footage is going to be publicly available and backed up on multiple servers.
    This is exactly the kind of service that people need these days to keep an eye on their representatives. To make sure that the people that are elected to public office keep their noses clean.

  6. I like how the community has decided that their police will not be pursuing any of them, but will rather punish any outsider unfortunate enough to enter their territory.

    It’s how a gang would behave, if it were so wealthy that it could outsource its violence.

  7. @5 – Are you saying crime is tolerable? I wouldn’t want a police chief going around telling people that they’re going to tolerate a number of burglaries just to keep people guessing.

  8. Ahem. Medina is in Bellevue suburb, not a Seattle one.

    This is tantamount to calling West Berkeley a suburb of San Francisco.

  9. Ok I have lived here all my life. I have been to Medina and the surrounding uber communities maybe once or twice in that time. So I suppose they can do whatever they want. this is afterall the neighborhoods in which Bill Gates has built his house. these people are beyond rich and have created their own little enclaves.
    Did it bother me when I read the story this morning riding the bus to work? Yes but there are gated communities here that have guards at the front. And in the final analysis they are munies with duely elected officials and they get to make their own rules so long as they do not break the wider rules.
    Cory I have a question. You state they do not pay county taxes, what is your source on that? I have never heard that claim before.

  10. Okay, let’s look at the flipside here– what’s the harm in a community that says to outsiders, “Please keep the hell out”?
    They were even polite enough to put up signs to let people know rather than find out by surprise.

  11. #12 Yes but there is a legal thing called the right to travel (paraphrase) Basically it means that they man has no right to ask you why you are walking down a sidewalk.
    Source – the SPD captain who was speaking to our burglary ridden community why we cant just call the cops an anyone who is walking down the street regardless of if they do not belong in the neighborhood.

  12. #12 Yes but there is a legal thing called the right to travel (paraphrase) Basically it means that they man has no right to ask you why you are walking down a sidewalk.
    Source – the SPD captain who was speaking to our burglary ridden community why we cant just call the cops an anyone who is walking down the street regardless of if they do not belong in the neighborhood.

  13. Consider this alternate perpendicular-side to Cicada’s flipside.

    Rich people are also commonly bilked out of money. Any wealthy hotel is going to charge $7 for a PBR and a $20 surcharge for using their hotel phone to make a call etc etc..and wealthy people won’t be bothered to identify how they are getting bilked on an itemized list. It is like normal people with telecommunication plans. So similarly the police of Medina may be bilking the residents by inventing services and charging them via property taxes. Its a common occurrence for wealth to attract a culture of parasitism.

  14. #15
    Actually the police in these communities are Janisarys raised for the task from orphans hand picked from 3rd world sweat shops. They have been outfitted with obedience chips and neutured to prevent any unfortunated liasons

  15. I heard they are also working on developing a system using “precogs”, people who can see the future, to stop crimes before they happen. Because “even one crime is intolerable.”

  16. Is the crime of burglary tolerable in society? YES.

    The cost of eliminating all possibility of crime is, well, I think Ripley from the Aliens movie said it best, “I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”

    But seriously, if a community has $X worth of burglaries per year, and can completely eliminate it at a cost of $100X per year, who wins?

    When Jesus said that the poor will always be with you, he wasn’t advocating poverty, but acknowledging that societies aren’t perfect, and we must deal with it. In a similar way, “crime will always be with you”. It’s up to us to deal with it reasonably and responsibly.

  17. Residents of this neighborhood have plenty of private security already, I bet.

    #12-I’m not sure “polite” is the right word. It’s “You have been warned.”

  18. @ERICT I don’t think parasitism is very paranoid. I think cops can frequently look after their own even after they rise up to political levels. In fact parasitism is more likely on the higher levels, not on the beat cop level that you are inventing a story about.

    It’s good business in a lot of respects. If a person doesn’t care to brush off the mosquitoes that’s their prerogative.

    Also I recommend the convention of @ rather than # because BoingBoing inserts anonymous comments more slowly than registered comments but keeps them in chronological order. To compensate for the later entry, the post numbers on all following posts will change, for instance my post #12 may become #14 when the anonymous posts preceding mine finally get accepted.

  19. Sounds like the policy of Tiburon north of San Francisco (tiburon == shark in Spanish so why should anyone be surprised when the local government acts like a pact of sharks?)

    The line about “zero tolerance” to minor crime illustrates the stupidity of the residents – they imagine risk can be reduced to zero at all or without any side effects. Complete morons.

  20. I think those with “previous criminal infractions” (however vaguely that is defined) need to start visiting these suburbs. Perhaps taking long, leisurely drives past the most expensive homes. Taking pictures should be encouraged, video even more so. All in the name of creating a record of how effective these methods of crime prevention are, of course.

    After a few months they could present the police with a wonderful multi-media art project showcasing all their hard work and zealous enforcement. They could have it at the library…er…Starbucks?

  21. Firstly, I lived in Seattle for years and catered many parties for people in Medina. The statement that they’re ‘not elitist at all,’ by the council member is serious bull; they’re EXCEEDINGLY elitist, but the elite never notice that about themselves, that’s to be expected. It is annoying to those of us dealing with them though. The rich are the new aristocracy, and there’s a certain level of The Kings New Clothes problem going on. They don’t take kindly to being told their heads are shoved deep in their asses cause they love their own smell so much.

    Secondly, they are EXCEEDINGLY rich. That “average income” number is ridiculous, and I’m certainly only reflect a tiny percentage of what people are actually “making” in a year. After having worked in the homes of many of the filthy rich in the Seattle (or Bellevue for the nit pickers) area I have no sympathy AT ALL for anything they may complain about. NONE.

    I don’t think most people understand just how much money these people have. I’ve seen and worked in kitchens that cost more than I’ve ever made in my entire life, and THEY NEVER GET USED, cause no one in the house knows how to cook. And they don’t need to, they hire that out (me). The disparity in wealth between a community like Medina and the rest of the Seattle/Bellevue area is staggering.

    Let them surveil everyone who drives through. It seems quite clear that it’s against the law (as stated by #14) so hopefully they’ll be forced to stop. And they can all go cry into wads of $100 bills.

    They don’t deserve the amount of money they have, none of them have worked hard enough for the vast wealth they posses. Period.

  22. To #12 posted by Cicada

    I guess you are too young to recall the signs that said “Negro Don’t let the sun set on you in this town.”

    and they didn’t say negro

  23. Erict: “being deliciously clever and creative” sounds like too much work. That’s why I stopped at delicious.

  24. Worked with a gal that grew up in one of these communities. She said that all unsolved crimes could be solved by booking the children who lived in these communities. From her personal experience all the missing property was sold to support drug habits of friends and blamed on mysterious black men in watch caps seen leaving the area. The perpetrator usually hosted the next party.

  25. @ANON 25

    Living close to Tiburon, I can say with at least a bit of authority that there’s very little reason to go to Tiburon unless you already live there or are considering living there, in which case you’re already fabulously wealthy and aren’t worried about what rules might apply to you, because none of them do.

    I imagine the situation in this similar sounding community is much the same. A collection of enormous houses with spectacular views, a few overpriced gourmet shops, snobby art galleries, jewelry stores, and real-estate offices that are open by appt. only.

    They’re advertising to the general public to stay the hell out, they don’t want or need your money.

    I see no reason not to grant that wish.

  26. Councilmember Lucius Biglow’s quote that crime prevention “outweighs concern over privacy” reminds me of one of my favorites from Ben Franklin (paraphrased): “Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither.”

  27. I can’t really get upset at the comments given the innaccuracies in the story. I live in Medina. (I’m on City Council that put these in.) And I don’t make anywhere NEAR $222,000 per year. The median income is way below that. The police do not use the cameras to follow people. They are used to read license plate numbers.

    The reality of it is that it is not illegal in any way. Many times if you drive past a parked police car, your license plate is typed in and searched against a national database for outstanding warrants. Our cameras provide data that is used to search against the same databases. If our city chose to staff a police car 24/7, with an officer doing this for every car, no one would claim it was illegal.

    From a legal standpoint, this is exactly what our cameras are doing. They are just doing it faster and cheaper than having officers do it. You and I may not like it. We may argue against it. But we’d need to find other grounds than the legality. We might not like it, but it is not illegal. You cannot find a privacy law that it violates. We can imagine one, we can wish for one, we can say there should be one, but there isn’t one today.

    We were VERY concerned about the same privacy issues that many of you have raised. We have in place strict guidelines and protections on how the camera information can and can’t be used.

    It’s important to remember that this system was put in place at the request of the citizens. We wanted it, we paid for 100% of it. And frankly, it is not that unusual. Many towns, with average incomes much lower than ours have these systems in place. There are many companies with existing products that do this. It just that our local paper finds it titillating to report on things it perceives that rich people are doing wrong or egregiously.

    Our town does in fact include many gazillionaires, including Mr. Gates. But it has many, many more ordinary people. Many fixed income retirees, young families getting started, very diverse families. It’s fun and delicious to categorize Medina as the elitist rich, but it’s simply not true.

  28. Sorry, I can’t let Jennie’s statement slide by, no matter how well intended. Medina pays a TON of county tax. We absolutely support our library. The story that Jennie is butchering is that Medina had ONE citizen, ONE!, question whether or not we should. He is an old curmudgeon with very little money. Not your typical elitist Medina stereotype.

    The Seattle Times, once again, in its zest for the story slamming wealthy folks, turned the whole thing into a circus, creating the impression that the rich people don’t want to support public libraries. IT NEVER HAPPENED, WE NEVER WITHHELD ONE DOLLAR OF SUPPORT. ONE GUY ASKED A QUESTION AT A CITY COUNCIL MEETING. Now Jennie’s reporting it as fact…sheesh.

  29. People. Calm down. The sky is not falling.

    You may not be aware, but very often, when you pass a police car, especially a parked police car, your license plate is typed in and run against the exact same database our cameras use, WITHOUT YOUR PERMISSION. This database returns information about outstanding warrants. If we wanted to, we could place an officer 24/7 in a police car typing in everyone license plate manually and checking them for warrants. Our camera system isn’t doing anything different, it’s just doing it faster, cheaper and more accurately. There is no legal difference in the old way vs. the new way.

    The city council worked very closely with the police department and the city attorney to ensure that privacy concerns are met. Even the most pro-camera amongst us had many concerns on how the information would be used. Many of the same concerns you raised. The cameras’ use is very precisely defined and severely curtailed. Because that’s how we want it in our city.

    For a group that has such a great reputation of accepting diversity, rejecting stereotypes, listening to and considering all points of view from people of varied walks of life, y’all sure are making some pretty pre-judging & sterotyping comments about the people in my neighborhood.

    I know it’s convenient to believe that everyone in Medina is a wealthy scoundrel, but it’s simply not the case. We have over 3,000 residents and it’s easy to form opinions based on the most public rich ones. But you might be surprised to learn that we have a huge retired low income community. People who worked hard to build this community from scratch 50 years ago, long before Bill G. showed up. The article said the average income was $222,000, but the median income is nowhere near that. We have young families, empty nesters, retirees, a whole lot of people just trying to get by. And doing what they can to make their community better.

    Medina is setting NO “legal precedent for other cities around the country” in doing this. This is really old news, from a precedent standpoint. You wouldn’t believe the number of companies who are doing this exact thing all over our country. It may freak you out, but there’s not any new ground being broken.

    The good news is that it’s easy to not have it affect you. Just don’t drive by the cameras. That’s an easy choice for you, harder for us residents.

    The fact remains, we’re spending our tax dollars in the manner in which we choose. There’s nothing wrong with that. We’re not the first Washington town to put cameras up, we’re just the one the Seattle Times targets because they think it will help to sell newspapers.

  30. You use companies and private property to support your argument for these cameras? Imagine the howls if Medina residents were suddenly required to maintain their own roads and did not have tax dollars to spend on these things. Methinks they’d keep their money to protect their own junk.

  31. Of course they’re not going to pay for libraries. Libraries are a socialist, commie system. These are true Americans!

    Besides, libraries are for the “little” people.

  32. Hey #42! We don’t have any “You are now entering a 24 hour surveillance area” notices in London.

    You never left…

  33. dogparkfan:

    Given that today is Constitution Day, I would like to direct your attention to the National Constitution Center. On their website one can download a copy of the entire US constitution. Wherin you will find that your community is teetering on the brink of violating Section One of Article XIV. The first time someone is arrested for simply “passing through”, your community can expect a very expensive civil rights lawsuit that your community will be lucky to settle out of court.

  34. seriously, who would be in these suburbs except child-raping maniacs and stepford wives?
    obey the signs people.
    we can draw a ring around them and start again

  35. Gollux’s coworker is smarter than the Medina PD. But then again, if the PD had corrolated the burglaries (by date) to the number of parties broken up (by approximate date) then the justification for the super-expensive CCTV system evaporates, parents are forced to responsibly deal with the bad behavior of their theiving children, and the community loses it’s oportunity to come off to Middle America as scummy, freedom-hating pricks.

  36. As someone who has spent most of my life living in Medina, I can tell you all that this is par for the course. The Medina Police force has more money than it knows how to spend, and a chip on their shoulder when it comes to traffic enforcement – but are completely impotent when it comes to actual crime.

    When I was a teenager, I would get pulled over constantly for “driving a suspicious vehicle”. This translated as “You are driving a crappy car in Medina” But when my parents house was robbed, the cops did nothing but take a statement, shrug and pretty much say “tough sh**”.

    When a neighbors car was stolen, he got pretty much the same response. He made a report to Medina Police, and 2 days later when it was found in a ditch, it had not even been entered in whatever system the police use for stolen cars.

    God forbid you live in Medina and let your car tabs expire! The police constantly sit at the gas station where most traffic enters / exits the neighborhood, and all they do is run plates and check tabs all day long. When I purchased a used car that had expired tabs, I was pulled over every day for 4 weeks despite displaying the appropriate dealership temporary plates.

    I have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and tracking my every movement in the neighborhood I live is a violation of that privacy.

    I cant tell you how many million dollar homes in Medina have a 3 dollar lock on the door. If the good residents if Medina are worried about crime, my suggestion is to invest in good locks and a security system, and use them.

    Shelling out a ton of money to build Big Brother / Skynet is not the answer, and is not the American way.

  37. Another town to avoid traveling through on principle? Dammit! My next cross-country road trip route is going to look like a sine wave.

  38. So here’s the deal…. don’t live there or go there if you don’t like their rules… Judging from the comments of even the people that live close that are opposed to this plan; they don’t seem inclined to go to Medina anyway… If I’m ever in that particular area, I would be MORE willing to stop and patronize any establishment in this community knowing that I might be in an area that welcomes honesty and is disgusted by crime.

    I applaud the steps taken by this community. My wish is that my own area of the world in rural Ohio would be blessed by the same type of individuals that developed and adopted this plan. If my family is protected (even just a little more than an occasional patrol car), I would be willing to have my phones tapped, video taped and put on youtube as an effort to step up protection.

    And for the record, I conducted a quick poll of my household…. my wife, 5 year old and two 8 year olds don’t feel like being robbed once OR several times is acceptable…. as quoted by my 5 year old…. “not never”.

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