Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Chicago Mayor Wants Security Cameras In Local Bars

Chicago Security CamerasMost people have probably noticed the security cameras hanging all around Chicago, Illinois. Typically the cameras are aimed at government buildings, train platforms or intersections and there are even special police cameras with microphones that can detect gunshots within a two block radius. But it seems that Mayor Richard Daley has some new ideas about where some security cameras should be focused.

Daley's new plan is to require bars or nightclubs open until 4 a.m. to install security cameras with the ability to identify individuals entering and leaving the building. But these are not the only establishments under Daley's eye. Eventually Daley would have businesses like convenience stores and other places open longer than 12 hours a day to do the same. This proposed idea from Daley adds more to the security measures put in place after the September 11th attacks.

Although the addition of security cameras in places like these may seem like a good idea to some, the fact that they are being added, especially being required by the government, is troubling to some civil liberties advocates. A member of the Illinois American Civil Liberties Union, Ed Yohnka stated "There is no reason to mandate all of those cameras unless you one day see them being linked up to the city's 911 system. We have, perhaps, reached that moment of critical mass when people want to have a dialogue about how much of this is appropriate."

Chicago isn't alone in the proliferation of security cameras at private businesses. Milwaukee is also considering making stores that have called police three or more times in one year install security cameras. In Maryland the Baltimore County Council required large malls to install cameras in their parking lots after an individual was murdered in a parking garage just last year. According to Baltimore County Councilman Kevin Kamenetz, "We require shopping centers to put railings on stairs and install sprinkler systems for public safety. This is a proper next step."

"The safer we make the city, the better it is for everybody," says Chicago Alderman Ray Suarez. Suarez was the first person to suggest the mandatory installation of cameras in some businesses. "If you're not doing anything wrong, what do you have to worry about?" The local businessmen that will be required to put in the cameras are not too fond of the idea of mandatory camera installations.

Nick Novich, who owns three bars in Chicago, is worried about the cost. "every added expense puts a small business in greater jeopardy of going out of business." Daley believes that the cameras will help to decrease crime rates. To that, Novich stated "that's what we pay taxes for." President of the Illinois Restaurant Association Colleen McShane believes that the mandatory addition of security cameras is an unfair burden on small businesses. "This is once again more government intrusion," McShane says.

Julia Shell, spokeswoman for Ala Carte Entertainment, says that "It's far more cost effective to have them than to not have them." Ala Carte Entertainment has security cameras in all 30 Chicago clubs, restaurants and bars owned by the company which they believe makes patrons feel safer.

By this spring, Chicago will have Red Light Cameras at 30 intersections around the city. The cameras are designed specifically to catch people who run red lights. Over 2,000 cameras around the city are linked to an emergency command center. These cameras, however, are partially paid for by federal homeland security funds. The newer "smart" cameras are able to alert police whenever there is gunfire, whenever somebody leaves a package or lingers outside of public buildings. This system is based on the same one being used in London in an attempt to capture suspected terrorists after last summer's subway bombings.

According to Rajiv Shah, an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago, Chicago is installing the "smart" cameras more aggressively than any other U.S. city. Shah studies the policy implications of surveillance technology. According to Shah, recording what people do in public "is just getting easier and cheaper to do. Just think of your camera cell phone."

There are pros and cons to both sides of the argument. Yes these cameras could lower crime and even help to catch criminals. On the other hand, the cost imposed on some small businesses could be devastating to them, not to mention the fact that the government could try to use the cameras as more than just a security measure. Regardless, we still have some time before anything is put into action so I guess we will just have to wait and see how it all unfolds.

No comments:

Post a Comment