Chicago Rushes Head First Into 'Limitless' Surveillance

from the but-will-they-be-able-to-spot-political-corruption? dept

Governments around the world are finding reasons to install surveillance cameras, but few are keeping account of the costs and benefits that come from those CCTV systems. Chicago, in its bid to follow in China's steps as host of the Olympics, is the most recent one to do so. By spending millions of dollars, Chicago aims to have a camera "on every corner" in preparation for the 2016 Summer Games that it hopes to host. But they are doing so without thoughtful implementation or an understanding of the realities of around-the-clock government surveillance.

Under the auspices of fighting crime and preventing terrorism, Chicago's Police Superintendent Jody Weis is hyping CCTV as having "limitless" crime-fighting potential. The reality, as is evident to anyone who has actually researched this type of thing, is that studies have shown municipal surveillance cameras to have little to no positive effect on crime. Further, London is widely known to have the most extensive CCTV network in the world, but that served as little deterrent to the terrorists of July 2005. But instead of bringing this up, the Sun-Times and Chicago officials point to a test in which "live video was used to catch a petty thief in the act of sticking his hand in a Salvation Army kettle outside Macy's State Street." Given the cost in both dollars and civil liberties, it is hard to justify catching petty criminals stealing some coins from charity.

But according to another city official, "civil libertarians have nothing to fear" from the blanket surveillance system because police operating the pan-and-tilt CCTV cameras see only what you would see if you were sitting on a park bench in front of that building." The difference, of course, is that by extending government power to all facets of public life, you extend the asymmetry of power between citizens and government (especially the corrupt ones for which Illinois is known). Indeed, we have already seen examples of "park bench" type cameras being abused by government.

What Chicago needs is an honest assessment of surveillance and a commitment to real police work, not hyped technology. If they want to follow in China's footsteps, it would be best to avoid the Big Brother ones.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    identicon
    sf suave, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 1:42am

    This does not happen in America, does it?

    And it was only yesterday that others on this site defended the US governement (and its agents) and criticised the UK, by making statements like this one below...

    "by bigness - Feb 23rd, 2009 @ 7:27am...
    The US government doesn't put up cameras throughout public areas or watch apartment buildings - your government does!... See our government doesn't watch us all the time - whereas you have allowed your government do so. Have fun with that."

    Seems that perceptions in the US of what elected officials are actually doing could do with a brush up?

    As it goes, they used the same excuses for putting up so many cameras in London too... It's to protect you! Have fun with that!

     

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      BaasGaas, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 7:25am

      Re: This does not happen in America, does it?

      You are mixing things up here. The US Government has nothing to do with this. The Chicago City Counsil are the culprits here i.e. the statement was correct.

      That said, I live in Chicago and I hate what this dumbass city has become. That was my reason number 1 for not voting for our new President. He is after all, nothing but a City of Chicago politician.

       

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        Motor City Madman, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 7:39am

        Re: Re: This does not happen in America, does it?

        Couple of points - SF mentions the US government and its agents as well as elected officials - does the Chicago City Counsil (correct spelling?) not fall under any of those headings?

        Anyway - I live in Detroit, what would I know?

         

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          BaasGaas, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 8:03am

          Re: Re: Re: This does not happen in America, does it?

          Sorry - My spelling sucks on a good day. It is Council.

          My point is that you have to be careful when you mix federal, state and local government. They are very different entities. The Federal government has little to no say (although they try their best) in the goings of state and local government, just like local government has little to no say on the federal level.

           

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      Grimp, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 8:47am

      Re: This does not happen in America, does it?

      This is not the US government. This is the city of Chicago.

       

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    JPFife, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 2:06am

    Ah, the limitless stupidity of those in charge.

    If you've a thousand cameras pointed at you but it's only idiots and morons that use and are in control of them is it really worth bothering about? The cameras may have caught a petty thief stupid enough to be seen dipping his hand but I'm sure they missed pick pockets subtle enough not even to be noticed by those whose pockets they were picking.

     

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    Jack Sombra, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 2:17am

    "But according to another city official, "civil libertarians have nothing to fear" from the blanket surveillance system because police operating the pan-and-tilt CCTV cameras see only what you would see if you were sitting on a park bench in front of that building."
    To start with then once they have those they will start to expand, as articles in the UK only yesterday pointed out, the police in london are now trying to put them inside pub's/bars.

    And if the owner does not want that (as who would drink in a place full of cameras operated by the cops?) they don't get their licence

     

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    Shawn, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 3:17am

    There are a number of other issues at play here, Here is a little backround for those not following whats going on in Chicago. Da Mayor hasn't renewed the Chicago Police contract some 15+ months now running, has sold the parking meters to a private company on a 100 year lease for a Billion dollars, (not many CPD want to write parking tickets now) and the department is some 1500 officers short of what should be on the streets of Chicago.

    Daley hired an outsider for the police chief's job, a former FBI agent at $342,000 a year and the murder rate is on track for being worse than last year, Its now more dangerous to live and work in Chicago than it is to be a U.S. service member in Iraq. Sup. Jody Weis has publicly stated that it was the use of Mobile Strike Teams that kept January's murder rate so low, (Say nothing of the extreme cold temperatures in Chicago)

    The police cars all have over 200K miles on them, and the replacements are nowhere to be seen, and the technology in them, PDT's and GPS are always broken. The police helicopter in Chicago is never in the air, (But Cleveland has six state of the art police helicopters)

    Over the weekend there was one triple homicide in front of two camera and the rumor is one of the cameras is always broken and the other just scans back and forth. The criminals in Chicago just as the terrorists in London have shown they just don't care about CCTV cameras, and what the mayor is basically saying is its cheaper to deploy cameras on every corner of Chicago than hire and retain real police officers.

     

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    Art, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 4:18am

    then again

    Chicago is known for its corrupt police force, so this might actually give criminals and citizens an edge - all they have to do is stay in front of the cameras where the police won't harass, beat, or shoot them.

     

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    Frogpond, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 4:19am

    It can and will get worse

    What's next? Maybe we should all wear transponders that are tied in with GPS. Those toll transponders that millions of us have could be used to track movements on highways other than the toll roads. Cell phones with location features (most of them) can be used to track specific individuals even if they never make a phone call. Add to that ATMs, bank cameras, OnStar, and red light cameras, and you'll never be alone. There may even be someone in government smart enough to tie all this together in a central computer somewhere and then those nasty criminals will all be caught and sent to jail for a few days.

     

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    Brian, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 7:38am

    Catch some major criminals

    They should install cameras in City Hall and Springfield if they want to catch some bigger criminals.

     

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    Matt, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 7:56am

    on the plus side

    ok, so they are a waste of money, intrusive and don't cut crime, but you DO get some great footage for the TV clip shows of people doing stupid stuff in public...and sometimes some clips for the security guards' personal collections *nudge* *nudge*

     

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    another mike, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 8:06am

    stealing from the salvation army?

    around these parts that petty thief would've been worked over with the danged bell if he tried it here.

     

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    Francis Burdett, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 8:29am

    Crowd Sourcing Big Brother

    To play devil's advocate on surveillance:

    (and bringing in some of David Brin's ideas from "The Transparent Society"

    Would everyone be as up in arms if all of the feeds from the cameras were not only viewed by the Chicago police but open to anyone who logged in?

    Afterall no one complains about all of the webcam feeds that are accessible.

     

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    Big Brother, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 9:36am

    From the Ministry of Love:

    It has to start somewhere.

     

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    crashoverride, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 12:29pm

    For the price of this system couldn't you just pay to have an actual police officer on every park bench? They might even provide some added value by being able to give directions...lol
    Or why not have the military provide "surveillance assistance" for the Olympics I'm sure they would be delighted to have a chance for urban training...

     

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    Dan, Feb 24th, 2009 @ 11:12pm

    What is really needed are webcams with audio focused into police stations and politicians offices, that's where the real crime is.

     

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    henry.buehler, Feb 25th, 2009 @ 8:54am

    http://www.securityinfowatch.com/online/The-Latest/Chicago-integrates-cameras-into-911-/20118SIW306

    operation virtual shield IBM software watching you
    useless waste of money.
    Police officers pay has been cut back to pay for this
    Beat police officers can no longer come to community meetings.

     

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    A. Magnus, Feb 26th, 2009 @ 4:59pm

    Unlimited Surveillance = Stalin's Wet Dream

    It doesn't get any more communist than the People's Republic of Chicago. What's next, charging police tazer victims for the discharged rounds like they do in Red China?

     

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    Winston Smith, Mar 2nd, 2009 @ 8:58am

    It's the City of Chicago, not the federal government, but I wouldn't be surprised if there are plenty of discretionary federal grants, perhaps in the mammoth stimulus bill that was recently passed, to fund local law enforcement efforts of this type.

    As a practical matter, there is little difference between federal, state and local government these days. The feds have a lot of indirect control, largely as a result of anti-terrorist initiatives that end up creating a police state for law-abiding citizens.

     

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    annie, Mar 2nd, 2009 @ 9:33am

    surveillance

    see ipto, echelon, operation red sky, strangedaysstrangeskies and sites whatdoesitmean.com, center for global research. they are up to more than just keeping tabs on us. prepare and consider reading the lost book of enoch. with love, annie

     

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