Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It's a crime S.F. surveillance cameras are a flop

I can't say this should be a surprise to anyone, surveillance cameras don't work anywhere they've been used...aside from the fact they are a massive invasion of privacy of course.

It appears San Francisco's experiment with them has been an abject failure. C.W. Nevius of the Chronicle reports:

Opponents for years have complained that residents' civil liberties are violated by government oversight of cameras in crime-ridden neighborhoods. Before San Francisco's cameras went up in 2005, some compromises were brokered: The cameras would be checked only if a crime occurred nearby and they are turned off if political demonstrations are held in the area. That was before a study by UC Berkeley showed in March that the cameras had little effect on violent crime.

Some on the Board of Supervisors think - and you can hardly blame them - that the program has been such a flop that there is no need to keep sending good money after bad. Last week, the finance committee voted not to fund $200,000 this year to keep the cameras on.


The idea, Ryan said, would be to hire retired police officers who are familiar with police codes and procedures. Ideally, he said, the system would be linked with Shot Spotter, a new technology already being used in some neighborhoods to identify the location of gunshots immediately after a gun is fired. If a shot was fired, someone in the central command could quickly click to a camera in that area.

That, of course, raises privacy issues. Nicole Ozer of the ACLU of Northern California, said that although people think cameras will make them safer, they turn out to be "intrusive and do not prevent crime from occurring."

That begins the dueling statistics. The ACLU said Chicago, for example, actually saw an increase in its murder rate after cameras went up there; meanwhile, Chicago police reported that the cameras helped them make 1,200 arrests in less than a year and a half.

At some point the issue always comes down to how we don't want someone secretly watching us. That was a major concern - 15 years ago. Now we're on camera all day, every day.

Click here to read the article in its entirety.

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