Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Phone a crook

The argument for compulsory government registration of cellphones is ... threadbare.

But sadly the opposition to the proposal coming from the local plod is ... almost non-existent.

"The use of prepaid cellular phones is a common use amongst the criminal fraternity," says Detective Senior Sergeant Darrin Thomson, from the Wellington metro crime unit.  I'm sure he's right.  But if Detective Senior Sergeant Darrin Thomson thinks criminals will actually be registering the cellphones they use, instead of just stealing them when they need them, then he's spent far too much time in meetings, and not enough catching crooks.

To paraphrase a popular slogan, when you outlaw unregistered phones, then outlaws will just steal your registered phones -- and that's "outlaws" as in "the criminal fraternity."  The crooks will steal your phones, the state will steal your privacy, and Detective Senior Sergeant Darrin Thomson won't have caught one more crook because of it.

As Liberty Scott notes,

in communist Romania the Securitate required all typewriters to be licensed. In the former East Germany, the Stasi kept meticulous notes on everything suspects did, down to the minute.

Do we really need to bring the surveillance society here?

UPDATE: Blair Anderson reckons the police aren't so much "supporting" calls for legislation as they have  a Google search watching what other countries are doing and saying "Yes, please."  He points out to that "the kind of crimes NZ police are 'interested' in surveiling are more often 'consensual' and 'victimless,' and relating to certain substances" than they are the real crimes like robbery, murder and violence that most New Zealanders actually want addressed.

Police should practice getting good at solving crimes.
They have been pretty lousy at predicting them.
Having (yet another) list of a million citizens will only confuse them.


  1. Its easy to see why police want to know ownership of cellphones. It will make it easier to track drug deals, and that leads to front-page making drug busts and makes the police look good.

    The real crimes like rape and murder don't involve cellphones, but the police aren't too concerned about fighting crime with victims these days.

  2. Here in India there are very tough laws regarding cellphone registration.

    The companies have to carry out very rigorous identification checking etc. I had my first phone number disabled due to incorrect details. The second time I had to show my passport, drivers license, address, a referee, his address and phone numbers and company and so on.

    Despite all that, the terrorists still use cellphones just as they would have without registration.

    They use them to communicate, and apparently used them to detonate the most recent murderous bomb attacks here in Delhi.

    No effect on criminals.

  3. then he's spent far too much time in meetings, and not enough catching crooks..

    Oh par for the course for the Wellington Police! ha ha!

    As someone who has been arrested 7 times (alas) by these chaps on various charges I can assure your readers the Wellington Constabulary spend almost none of their time catching crooks, preferring to waste time and 'look busy' by doing anything other than that.

  4. Cellphones? And I thought the U.S. was overreaching....


    How about instead if they lock up repeat offenders for life? Recidivism (at least here) is one of the major factors in the continuance of high crime rates.

  5. As Britain goes, so will New Zealand.
    To predict the future for Kiwis, just look at the kind of surveillance society Britain has.
    We lag that lot by about five years, but the gap is closing rapidly.

  6. Elijah

    Arrested seven times! Whatever for?


  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. I will steal YOUR phone in order to do my nefarious deeds and YOU will have a lot of explaining to do.

    If I am questioned about a misdeed on MY phone, it will have conveniently become lost.

    See how asinine this whole scheme is? And I'm not even a criminal - yet...


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