Crime and detective shows seem to rule the networks. Our love of crime seems insatiable. And where there’s a crime show, there’s a plotline revolving around audio surveillance, phone taps, wire taps or spy equipment. Whether it’s the much-lauded The Wire or more accessible TV shows such as CSI or even British crime dramas from way back when like Dempsey and Makepeace, audio surveillance has always played a dramatic role in cracking crime
Audio surveillance: Catching the criminals
Anyone who has watched any popular crime show will have seen the scenes that involve an undercover detective being wired up with sensitive audio surveillance equipment in an attempt to catch on tape evidence that can be used in a court of law. And according to the TV series The Wire, it isn’t just in fictional detective shows where audio surveillance techniques are used. The Wire is written by a mixture of renowned crime authors such as George Pelecanos and former crime reporters, such as the producer and creator, David Simon. It prides itself for being a true reflection of policing the streets of Baltimore. And many of the big undercover detective plots revolve and depend on audio surveillance.
Audio surveillance unveils intricate web
Unlike most routine crime dramas, the audio surveillance techniques in The Wire start off as being seemingly straightforward – a story of cops trying to crack the drug dealers. But the audio surveillance techniques are far more complex and reveal a fascinating insight into the city’s underworld. The use of the spy equipment reveals how ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is never straightforward, how poverty impacts on crime and the intertwined lives of all sectors of society from the politicians, police to the drug dealers and addicts.
The Wire inspired by audio surveillance techniques
The very name of the TV series reveals how integral audio surveillance is for detectives. And as The Wire was created by a former crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun and used collaborators such as Ed Burns, a former homicide detective in Baltimore, as well as crime authors who are renowned for spending time with Baltimore detectives to get their stories real, it’s clear the use of audio surveillance doesn’t just belong in the fictional world to create plot lines and drama. As one journalist noted in an interview with David Simon and Ed Burns of The Wire, walking around Baltimore feels like a TV set: “It looks and seems so much like The Wire I tell my hosts that I feel like I’m watching television. ‘The problem,’ says Ed Burns, ‘is it’s real.’ ‘All too real,’ adds David Simon with a sad smile and a slight shake of the head.”