Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Counting heads is not that hard

California Catholic Daily reports that there are wildly differing opinions about the size of the crowd at the West Coast Walk for Life this past Saturday:
Sponsors said between 20,000 and 25,000 people turned out, but a spokesman for the San Francisco Police Department told California Catholic Daily just hours after the event that officers at the scene estimated only about 2,500 marchers. The spokesman was asked to repeat the number to ensure there was no confusion, and confirmed the 2,500 estimate. In a followup phone call to the police operations center shortly before 10 p.m., a dispatcher said, "It could even have been less."

"Whoever told you that was not there," said Stan Devereux, a spokesman for LifeWalk. He said the march stretched more than a mile along the San Francisco waterfront. "You can say 20,000 to 25,000. That's what we were told."

I'm inclined to believe the larger numbers, since some of wider-angle photos posted here seem to take in only a part of the march, yet show a number that must be close to the lower estimate. But it's so darned simple to establish this these days that I'm at a loss to think why some very simple steps weren't taken by the organizers to avoid the inevitable bickering about crowd size. After all, they must know that officialdom in San Francisco is going to do everything they can to downplay the magnitude of participation.

All that's needed is to post someone with an ordinary camcorder at any point along the march that allows the camera to take in perhaps thirty or forty yards of the column as it passes bay. Then you just let the thing run until the march ends. You bring the footage home, cue up to the first batch of marchers as they pass, pause the playback at that frame, then count the heads in that scene. You then fast-forward to the frame in which the last marchers you counted in the first frame are just leaving the field of view, you pause again, and you count heads. And so on to the end of the march. Might be a good idea to capture each "counting" frame as a still, so you could post them as proof of the process' validity.

A small group or even a single person could do the count this way in no more than a few hours, and produce documented results that would be beyond dispute.

So why are we still playing these stupid games with hostile secular authorities and media?