We’re Not On The Same Wavelength

~or~ Infrared Inspection of Homes from Helicopters is Not an Invasion of Privacy

We had a discussion about this at work, and it became clear just before I dropped the topic that we were arguing from differing first principles. If you disagree with the following statement, you will also disagree with the rest of this post.

It is good police work and a positive good per se for policemen not on active “hot” calls, to be out on patrol roaming around “looking for trouble.”

Their windows should be down, in case they might hear fights, screaming, or gunshots. They should have their heads on a swivel, in case they might see something bad happening so that they can stop it happening. What a policeman can see, with his unaided senses, from a public place, he has both a duty and a right to observe. He SHOULD be looking AT your windows to see if you are murdering your husband inside your own home.

But some people take offense at the idea that police helicopters with infrared imaging systems can look through your house’s roof from the air and see the one hot room or closet where you have your grow lights, growing your illegal (untaxed) marijuana farm. I respectfully disagree with those people.

A policeman walking down a neighborhood street on a regular beat is good police work. A policeman driving a Ford Police Interceptor down the street on a random patrol is good police work. If the city has enough of a population that they ‘need’ a helicopter, they also need to have FLIR on the plane, so they can find a suspect hiding under a kiddie swimming pool or in a dense thicket of bushes. Assuming the city is busy enough to keep the police helicopter flying, having the infrared camera switched on all the time, scanning your houses below, is good police work.

This is only a matter of degree. You screaming bloody murder emits radiation with a wavelength of a few hundred feet (audible -sound- energy). This energy is radiated from your home, through the walls and windows and roof a little, but through an open door very much. It is readily viewable and recordable from public spaces outside your house once it has been emitted.

You hitting your wife in the face emits radiation with a wavelength of maybe 400 to 800 nanometers, (visible -colors of light- energy). This energy is radiated from your home, through the windows very much but not as easily through the curtains, walls, or ceiling. It is readily viewable and recordable from public spaces outside your house once it has been emitted.

The grow light for your three cannabis sativa plants in the closet emits radiation with a wavelength of about 750 namometers to 1 millimeter (infrared -heat- energy). This energy is radiated from your home, passing fairly easily through walls and ceilings with no insulation, but not as easily through windows, especially windows with low-e glass. It is readily viewable and recordable from public spaces outside your house once it has been emitted.

No, you should not have to worry about perverts with thermal cameras spying on you and your wife making whoopee. No, in an ideal world, police would not ‘need’ helicopters with thermal imaging equipment. But your police have a helicopter with an infrared camera in the bottom of the nose of the aircraft.

If you do not want a foot patrolman hearing you scream, close the doors and windows. If you do not want a car patrol seeing your indoors activities, draw the curtains. If you do not want police to wonder why one room of your house is hotter than all the rest of the house, in a manner typical of a marijuana farm, insulate that room with aluminum foil.

In short: if you don’t want a particular type of energy to be observed outside your house, it is on YOU to take steps to prevent observation. Police not only can but should observe your home from public places, both to check that you are okay and to see if you are breaking the law.

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