Local police are trying to take advantage of technology to improve public safety, although some of that can make people uncomfortable or even suspicious.

Local police are trying to take advantage of technology to improve public safety, although some of that can make people uncomfortable or even suspicious.

Sugar Creek this week decided to go ahead with plans for s mobile system to nail drivers who speed, a variation on red light cameras that have been popping up. Sugar Creek has one of those; Kansas City has several.

“There is a definite speeding problem in areas of town that we are concerned about. This is for the safety of our citizens and those using our roadways,” said Police Chief Herb Soule said of his city, Sugar Creek. He could have been talking about any city in America.

The red-light cameras really get under some people’s skin, basically because you’re busted pure and simple, and there is no cop to plead with. Our state legislators have even talked of not letting cities use the things.

But Sugar Creek already has a red-light camera on Missouri 291, and this mobile system seems like a natural extension of that idea. The idea is to focus on areas such as school zones.

Police in every jurisdiction have their hands full with more serious crimes, so traffic is never the highest priority – and the bad drivers know it. The result is a lot like what we see elsewhere in the economy: Some work is important, just not important enough to be done by a human when a machine can be plugged in instead.

Meanwhile, Blue Springs has joined the area cities adopting devices, mounted on squad cars, to scan nearby license plates and run them for outstanding warrants. Again, that’s about speed, efficiency and – let’s not forget – public safety.

Are these more intrusions into the human act of just walking around, driving around and conducting our lives? If so, they are small additions. You’re under surveillance at the mall, at the bank and at the amusement park, no matter your guilt or innocence. Americans freely share all kinds of financial data and other information online in ways that are far less secure than many presume. Let’s not even get into the lurid details – about ourselves – that we post on Facebook and elsewhere. As this paper has documented and reported in this space in the past, in America far greater threats to privacy come from the companies we do business with than from the government that’s supposed to serve us.

Much of the best police work goes unseen because it’s deterrence, either the leadfoot or the would-be banker robber holding off because he suddenly remembers he might just get caught. If a ticket-producing machine gets a few drivers to pay attention and slow down for a school zone, then the police have succeeded.