Citizen Surveillance Is Awesome, But Take Care

The footage of the ranting racist Sydney woman Sue Wilkins has hit the web, and the private detectives around here are following the case closely.

Warning: there are so many ways this video will offend, we can’t list them all.

We won’t be adding to the flourishing conversation about racism that this video sparked, because it’s being done better elsewhere. No, what caught our detectives’ eyes about this video was the fact that within a day of the event, civilian surveillance has transformed the incident from something crappy that happened on a few people’s PT ride home to something that all of Australia knows about. Today, one day after it was posted, the video has had 62,151 views, and counting every second.

Detectives have been using surveillance to offer proof of wrongdoing and misbehaviour of as long as there have been cameras. However, it’s only in the last few years that almost everyone has immediate access to a camera via their phones. Even if most people have them, there are plenty who still don’t know how to use them, as Ms Wilkins here demonstrates.

This means that almost everyone now can act like a detective – whip out your smartphone and take footage of an obnoxious, racist person going on rants about how “Kids these days have no manners” and “Go back to China, this is our country.”

While we applaud the people who took footage to give evidence of her horrible behaviour, we want to add a caveat to the praise: simply, be careful. Notice how this woman acts when she is being filmed. Arguably, it’s the filming that set her off on her racist rant.

She was obviously angry and abusive beforehand, calling the police to complain about the children who wouldn’t give up their seats to her, but as you can see in the video, the situation escalates when she realises she is being filmed. She tries to react by taking her own film footage; failing that, she takes photos of an Australian man and the Asian woman next to him on the train, seeking to taunt and insult both the man and the woman by saying “Isn’t that sad he can’t get a regular girl, he’s gotta get an Asian. That’s ’cause he can’t get anyone else.”

Sure, this 55 year old woman doesn’t seem very threatening – just a lot of other adjectives. But imagine if it was three 20-something guys who were behaving abusively towards another traveller. While any good person would want to step in to help the victims, they would be putting themselves in serious danger. The same goes if a person tried to video such behaviour – how long do you think truly abuse people would let you stand nearby and gather evidence of them assaulting someone?

We are not saying don’t take video of behaviour like this. It’s a great thing that this video was taken and posted on Youtube. However, the detectives here at Elite Investigations feel we have to give a warning. Consider how an angry an already abusive individual would act if you started playing the detective. Before you start filming anyone, make sure you are safe. Ideally, do it without drawing attention to the fact, and make sure you have a way out or other people around to help if the individuals notice you.

Also remember that unless someone really is acting threateningly or abusively, that by filming them you could be charged with stalking, if the footage doesn’t prove sufficient evidence of just cause.