Thursday, March 05, 2009

Chicago's Daley Likes Our Cameras? Nope.

Below, I flagged an interesting portion of Mayor Nagin's interview with Fox 8 news.

Holden: - That came up this week. The IG report blasting your office for basically failing to hold the contractors accountable for the work they did, way too much money being spent on this, and the fact that maintenance costs are going to be astronomical from this point on. At some point do you say let's just abandon this whole project?

Nagin: I wouldn't do that. I mean, you know, one of the things I want to remind the public is that this is something that we pioneered. This was a research and development kind of project that the city of New Orleans really hadn't done. And when you do research and development and you pioneer things, you know, you're going to have some issues. I want to tell you I was just in Washington and Mayor Daley came up to me and he said, "look, I like these crime cameras that you guys are doing in New Orleans. They're cheaper than hiring more police officers and we're going to do them in a big way in Chicago."

The truth is that Chicago has already done cameras in a big way and has been implementing one of the world's most advanced surveillance systems since 2004.

If you're on that believes that crime cameras can act as deterrents of crime, you'll notice that Chicago's system is operational and integrated into crime enforcement procedures.

For the record, I don't believe crime cameras actually deter crime. I think the risks to our civil liberties are too troubling so I generally oppose them on principle.

Either way, let's take a look at Chicago's experience. It ain't quite like our own.

New York Times, 2004:

A highly advanced system of video surveillance that Chicago officials plan to install by 2006 will make people here some of the most closely observed in the world. Mayor Richard M. Daley says it will also make them much safer.

"Cameras are the equivalent of hundreds of sets of eyes," Mr. Daley said when he unveiled the new project this month. "They're the next best thing to having police officers stationed at every potential trouble spot."

Police specialists here can already monitor live footage from about 2,000 surveillance cameras around the city, so the addition of 250 cameras under the mayor's new plan is not a great jump. The way these cameras will be used, however, is an extraordinary technological leap.

Sophisticated new computer programs will immediately alert the police whenever anyone viewed by any of the cameras placed at buildings and other structures considered terrorist targets wanders aimlessly in circles, lingers outside a public building, pulls a car onto the shoulder of a highway, or leaves a package and walks away from it. Images of those people will be highlighted in color at the city's central monitoring station, allowing dispatchers to send police officers to the scene immediately.

San Fransisco Chronicle, 2007:

Earl Gardner lounged on the street near his home just west of downtown Chicago, a 24-ounce can of Crazy Stallion beer in his hand.

A mile away, police Officer Al Garbauski slid a computer mouse to maneuver a camera that was perched a block from Gardner. Zooming in tight, Garbauski saw malt liquor meet mouth and sent an officer to arrest Gardner for drinking in public.


. . . San Francisco differs from Chicago in one significant respect: In San Francisco, no one watches the action as the cameras record it. Police track down the footage later if they find out that a camera may have recorded a serious crime such as a homicide. No one shifts San Francisco's 70 cameras into better position in an emergency.

In Chicago, police use the cameras every day, all day. The monitors are watched in 25 district stations, and a dozen police cars are being outfitted to view feeds.

New York Times, 2009:

At first glance, Chicago’s latest crime-fighting strategy seems to be plucked from a Hollywood screenplay. Someone sees a thief dipping into a Salvation Army kettle in a crowd of shoppers on State Street and dials 911 from a cellphone. Within seconds, a video image of the caller’s location is beamed onto a dispatcher’s computer screen. An officer arrives and by police radio is directed to the suspect, whose description and precise location are conveyed by the dispatcher watching the video, leading to a quick arrest.

The cameras were linked to the 911 system with a grant from the Department of Homeland Security.

That chain of events actually happened in the Loop in December, said Ray Orozco, the executive director of the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

“We can now immediately take a look at the crime scene if the 911 caller is in a location within 150 feet of one of our surveillance cameras, even before the first responders arrive,” Mr. Orozco said.

I don't believe this city is or ever was in any kind of position to develop that kind of comprehensive system.

We were swindled when this sorry project was conceived and we've been getting swindled every step of the way since.

Who knows what Mayor Daley really said to Mayor Nagin, but he certainly wasn't holding New Orleans up as a model. Chicago is on a totally different playing field, perhaps only London is more advanced.

1 comment:

alli said...

And Chicago is murderous as hell, so you have to wonder what they're using the cameras for. They're not bringing down the murder rate at all.