Monday, December 10, 2012

Police cameras in high-crime areas? Yes

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Chief Rodney Monroe will explain today to Charlotte City Council his department's plans to use more than 500 wireless cameras, license plate readers and advanced sound technology, some of which were purchased with the $50 million the city received to enhance security for the Democratic National Convention.

We called on CMPD in October to explain to the council and the public how it will use the technology. At the time, council members told the Observer they hadn't even been briefed on CMPD's plans for all the gadgetry it had. Today's meeting, at 4 p.m. at the Government Center, is a good first step.

There are two issues here. First - are the cameras and other equipment worth the price? Until recently, most of the evidence was anecdotal, but the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Institute studied three cities that used cameras in downtown and high-crime areas. The results: In two of the cities, Baltimore and Chicago, the analysis found enough crime reduction from the cameras to declare them worth the investment. In the third, Washington, the conclusion was maybe - there was significant crime reduction in areas that had surveillance, but researchers weren't certain how much other factors might have contributed.

The second issue is more delicate: The cameras are most sensibly used in areas that have high-crime, but civil rights leaders worry that means they will be concentrated in low-income, high-minority neighborhoods. That's probably true, and that's a good thing. Police already devote a higher level of resources to those communities. Surveillance technology is one more crimefighting tool for the places that need them most.

Monroe's job today is to calm legitimate concerns about the technology by outlining a policy that addresses the cameras' potential to peek into private spaces and encourage racial profiling. The City Council shouldn't be a passive participant in this process. In Washington, the council designed guidelines on technology use after consultation with the public, the ACLU and the American Bar Association.

The cameras are a promising tool, but they will be most effective if everyone has a voice in how they are used - and an understanding of how they will not be.

Peter St. Onge

7 comments:

cmsparent2010 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cmsparent2010 said...

Obtaining the date is one thing - what you do with it is another - Our NSA listens to every wire and wireless communication in America. However, they are forbidden by law to share it with law enforcement. In the CMPD case, is it to solve crime, or will the dispatch radio be full of " a black van with expired registration just passed Trade and Tryon?"

Skippy said...

Yes, lets be racially sensitive to the thugs.. That's the ticket.

Wiley Coyote said...

Every time I go fishing, I make sure my fish finder sees no fish.

What would be the point of going fishing, catch a bunch of fish and then having to clean and cook them?

The fish love me because I'm sensitive to their needs.

Garth Vader said...

There is a much higher probability that these cameras will capture incidents of inappropriate or illegal police activity - which will then be erased or suppressed - than that they will capture the commission of a felony by the general population.

Unlimited "Tools" in the hands of police = Police State.

America's Surveillance State Breeds Conformity and Fear, from the "Left's" Glenn Greenwald:
http://www.alternet.org/story/156170/glenn_greenwald%3A_how_america%27s_surveillance_state_breeds_conformity_and_fear

Americans are the Most Spied-On People in World History, from the "Right's" RevolutionPAC:
http://revolutionpac.com/articles/americans-are-the-most-spied-on-people-in-world-history

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