[Mb-civic] NYTimes.com Article: Chicago Moving to ' Smart' Surveillance Cameras

ialterman at nyc.rr.com ialterman at nyc.rr.com
Tue Sep 21 10:01:47 PDT 2004

The article below from NYTimes.com 
has been sent to you by ialterman at nyc.rr.com.

As we are caught up in the election, let's not forget about other, equally important, issues...like the increased surveillance of the populace...


ialterman at nyc.rr.com

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Chicago Moving to 'Smart' Surveillance Cameras

September 21, 2004


CHICAGO, Sept. 20 - A highly advanced system of video
surveillance that Chicago officials plan to install by 2006
will make people here some of the most closely observed in
the world. Mayor Richard M. Daley says it will also make
them much safer. 

"Cameras are the equivalent of hundreds of sets of eyes,"
Mr. Daley said when he unveiled the new project this month.
"They're the next best thing to having police officers
stationed at every potential trouble spot." 

Police specialists here can already monitor live footage
from about 2,000 surveillance cameras around the city, so
the addition of 250 cameras under the mayor's new plan is
not a great jump. The way these cameras will be used,
however, is an extraordinary technological leap. 

Sophisticated new computer programs will immediately alert
the police whenever anyone viewed by any of the cameras
placed at buildings and other structures considered
terrorist targets wanders aimlessly in circles, lingers
outside a public building, pulls a car onto the shoulder of
a highway, or leaves a package and walks away from it.
Images of those people will be highlighted in color at the
city's central monitoring station, allowing dispatchers to
send police officers to the scene immediately. 

Officials here designed the system after studying the video
surveillance network in London, which became a world leader
in this technology during the period when Irish terrorists
were active. The Chicago officials also studied systems
used in Las Vegas casinos, as well as those used by Army
combat units. The system they have devised, they say, will
be the most sophisticated in the United States and perhaps
the world. 

"What we're doing is a totally new concept," said Ron
Huberman, executive director of the city's office of
emergency management and communications. "This is a very
innovative way to harness the power of cameras. It's going
to take us to a whole new level." 

Many cities have installed large numbers of surveillance
cameras along streets and near important buildings, but as
the number of these cameras has grown, it has become
impossible to monitor all of them. The software that will
be central to Chicago's surveillance system is designed to
direct specialists to screens that show anything unusual

Mr. Huberman, a 32-year-old former police officer who is
also what one aide called "a techno geek," said this new
system "should produce a significant decrease in crime, and
from a homeland security standpoint it should be able to
make our city safer." 

When the system is in place, Mr. Huberman said, video
images will be instantly available to dispatchers at the
city's 911 emergency center, which receives about 18,000
calls each day. Dispatchers will be able to tilt or zoom
the cameras, some of which magnify images up to 400 times,
in order to watch suspicious people and follow them from
one camera's range to another's. 

A spokesman for the Illinois chapter of the American Civil
Liberties Union, Edwin C. Yohnka, said the new system was
"really a huge expansion of the city's surveillance

"With the aggressive way these types of surveillance
equipment are being marketed and implemented," Mr. Yohnka
said, "it really does raise questions about what kind of
society do we ultimately want, and how intrusive we want
law enforcement officials to be in all of our lives." 

The surveillance network will embrace cameras placed not
only by the police department, but also by a variety of
city agencies including the transit, housing and aviation
authorities. Private companies that maintain their own
surveillance of areas around their buildings will also be
able to send their video feeds to the central control room
that is being built at a fortified city building. 

The 250 new cameras, along with the new system dispatchers
will use to monitor them, are to be in place by the spring
of 2006. A $5.1 million federal grant will be used to pay
for the cameras, and the city will add $3.5 million to pay
for the computer network that will connect them. 

This project is a central part of Chicago's response to the
threat of terrorism, as well as an effort to reduce the
city's crime rate. It also subjects people here to
extraordinary levels of surveillance. Anyone walking in
public is liable to be almost constantly watched. 

"The value we gain in public safety far outweighs any
perception by the community that this is Big Brother who's
watching," Mr. Huberman said. "The feedback we're getting
is that people welcome this. It makes them feel safer." 

One community organizer who works in a high-crime
neighborhood, Ernest R. Jenkins, chairman of the West Side
Association for Community Action, said the 2,000 cameras
now in place had reduced crime and were "having an impact,
no if's, and's or but's about it." Nonetheless, Mr. Jenkins
said, some people in Chicago believed the city was trying
to "infiltrate people's privacy in the name of terrorist

"I just personally think that it's an invasion of people's
privacy," Mr. Jenkins said of the new video surveillance
project. "A large increase in the utilization of these
cameras would oversaturate the market." 

City officials counter that the cameras will monitor only
public spaces. Rather than curb the system's future
expansion, they have raised the possibility of placing
cameras in commuter and rapid transit cars and on the
city's street-sweeping vehicles. 

"We're not inside your home or your business," Mayor Daley
said. "The city owns the sidewalks. We own the streets and
we own the alleys." 



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