Friday, June 17, 2011

Chicago Plans on Expanding Security Camera Network

Chicago security camerasChicago is already home to more than 10,000 private security cameras that, if combined, account for the most extensive and integrated camera network in the entire country according to Mayor Rahm Emanuel. However, as if 10,000 cameras weren't enough, Emanuel has just agreed to expand the network even further.

In a recent report from the Chicago Sun-Times it was reported that Emanuel approved three new loop sites for surveillance. The three loops are the Chicago Board of Trade, the Federal Reserve and AT&T's switching center. These new cameras will supposedly be paid for with a $650,000 federal grant from the Department of Homeland Security.

According to Emanuel, "It's necessary. They're key buildings. They were not a part of the network. The fiber had already been laid. I don't know if I'd use the word weird or strange. But, if you've laid the fiber and you have key pieces of critical national security ... that don't have the cameras..."

The American Civil Liberties Union, also known as the ACLU, released a report back in February that criticized Chicago's extensive use of surveillance cameras and described the citizens of the city as "the most-watched citizens in the country." The ACLU suggested that Chicago should focus on hiring more officers to address crime, rather than buying new cameras, which the city has implemented quite steadily over the past decade.

"Chicago's camera network invades the freedom to be anonymous in public places, a key aspect of the fundamental American right to be left alone," the ACLU stated. "Each of us then will wonder whether the government is watching and recording us when we walk into a psychiatrist's office, a reproductive health care center, a political meeting, a theater performance or a book store."

Jody Weis, former Chicago Police Superintendent, is a big supporter of the cameras saying that they help deter crime and are cost effective for a police department that has been forced to work more understaffed than usual. These cameras also help police collect solid evidence that can be extremely helpful in court.

In a statement from Weis found in Chicago Magazine back in 2009, "Rather than having the guys do surveillance on the street, they are sitting back and watching it on the cameras. They've got the cars identified, they know who to go after, and they can arrest the people."

I see where the ACLU is coming from but that argument brings up another one, if people aren't doing anything illegal, then why does it matter what the camera sees?

Source: Huffpost Chicago - Chicago Expands Surveillance Camera Network

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