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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cincinnati plans multi-million dollar surveillance camera system

The City of Cincinnati, in combination with the Uptown Consortium, has announced that 14 new high-tech surveillance cameras will be installed in various locations throughout Downtown (8) and Uptown (6). The cameras are being touted by local officials and community leaders as being a 21st Century crime fighting tool that should make Cincinnati a safer place.


The $19,000/piece cameras are not going to stop at this initial installation, that is expected to be fully operational within the coming months, as officials will have another dozen installed throughout East Price Hill and Westwood along Glenway Avenue by summer. An additional 12 to 15 cameras will be installed to monitor bridges, piers and waterways. Two years from now, officials hope to have 50 to 60 cameras installed across the city in other neighborhoods like Over-the-Rhine, Avondale, College Hill and Northside in addition to those in Downtown, Westwood, East Price Hill, Clifton Heights, University Heights, Fairview, Corryville, and Clifton.


View Cincinnati surveillance cameras in a larger map


Public safety officials often proclaim that these types of cameras have the ability to deter crime and make neighborhoods safer, when in fact they don't. Cameras simply move criminal activity around much like citronella candles keep bugs away from your backyard barbecue.


The cameras were paid for by a $2 million federal grant, but what about the ongoing maintenance? Who is going to watch the live video stream, or will someone? Who is going to review the tapes? What will be reviewed? What about archiving...how long, how much, where, and who manages it? What is the City going to actually do with all this information?


It would seem to be logical to assume that the primary use, for the cameras, will be for building cases against those who have already committed crimes. So, once again, how is this making the city safer? Instead it would seem that the cameras would just make prosecution more effective in some cases. But at the same time, I would imagine the criminals will be smart enough to see the bright white and prominently branded cameras (image) and move their operations just outside the cone of view.


So then what, do we install more cameras...cameras on every street corner? Who will pay for that kind of an operation, and are Cincinnatians accepting of this Big Brother kind of a move? In New York they are in the process of installing some 3,000 cameras that will be fully operational by 2010. The costs of New York's system is pegged at $90 million with a $25 million surveillance center in the project's first phase in lower Manhattan.


The London Evening Standard just reported that even with London's impressive array of more than 10,000 CCTV cameras, the most expansive system of its kind anywhere, that roughly 80 percent of crimes go unsolved. The $334+ million system not only is not solving the core issues surrounding the need for individuals to result to criminal behavior, but the system is not even showing effectiveness in the one area it is suppose to shine.


This approach to crime fighting seems to be a reactionary way to manage complex criminal behavior. More money should be spent on identifying the causes behind individuals resulting to criminal behavior, and how to address that. Instead what we're doing is spending $2 million on a project that at best will put more non-violent criminals behind bars or at least through our legal system, and at worst, become cumbersome to manage and prove ineffective much like London's advanced Big Brother system.

12 comments:

Rob said...

I think a good read for people would be the Chapter regarding Sidewalks and Safety (chapter 3 or 4) from The Death and Life of Great American Cities. We need more HUMAN eyes on the streets. NOT cameras.

Leiflet said...

Cameras-- BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

5chw4r7z said...

In addition to the camera, they will be equipped with sophisticated microphones that can triangulate gunshots for quicker police response.

Wired magazine had an interesting story about a year ago focusing on the success that New York and Chicago have had with these camera's at crime hot spots.

Nothing will ever deter crime except for quick response, once people realize they don't have a 30 minute cushion of time, the higher chance of apprehension will be the deterrent.

Randy Simes said...

5chw4r7z,

That would be a rational thought process for the person who is engaging in non-rational behavior. For example, do you think the fear of the death penalty really runs through a murderer's head before they kill?

We can prevent crime from happening by reducing the needs/desires for individuals to engage in that behavior. Good economic conditions, good health, comfortable living conditions and respect for all human beings just does that. When you look at crime rates throughout the rest of the western world you will notice that the U.S. has extraordinarily higher amounts of crime than the rest.

Instead of pouring more and more money into techniques that are meant to punish after the fact, we should be taking that money and investing in techniques that prevent the crime from happening in the first place.

Allister Sears said...

I don't think anybody is worried about this turning into some sort of 1984 scenario. As you pointed out, it takes alot of work to observe a video feed, so most likely this footage won't be analyzed unless a crime is reported in an area.

That being said, I don't think it will work as a crime deterrent, but it may work as a way of encouraging more foot traffic on the street. A camera may do little to stop a mugging in progress, but it may at least prompt people to visit areas at night they wouldn't normally visit because of concerns that it's unsafe. They feel safer knowing at least if something does go bad, there's a video feed recording it somewhere.

Indirectly, this could lead to safer streets. If people feel more comfortable walking through the city at night, this means there are more actual witnesses on the street at a given time. Having more people on a street is more of a crime deterrent since I think somebody is less likely to commit a crime if people are all around.

Quim said...

"We can prevent crime from happening by reducing the needs/desires for individuals to engage in that behavior. Good economic conditions, good health, comfortable living conditions and respect for all human beings just does that."
baloney - look at Bernie Maddoff. His success inspires people. His demise is ignored - especially by younger people.
As far as The Death and Life of Great American Cities, I gave up on that book after awhile. Too dated. 1961? You younger folks may not remember a time of 3 TV stations, telephone party lines & shared bathrooms, but today there are so many diversions - from cable TV, the internet, gaming stations & stuff - not to mention everybody has air conditioning nowadays - nobody is sitting around looking out the window anymore.

Hawse said...

"Indirectly, this could lead to safer streets. If people feel more comfortable walking through the city at night, this means there are more actual witnesses on the street at a given time. Having more people on a street is more of a crime deterrent since I think somebody is less likely to commit a crime if people are all around."

I agree to a point but are cameras the effective, or cost conscience way of tackling this. If all we were trying to do is make places appear safer (which in my mind is the only actual benefit from these things, which isn't much) then why not do things like increase lighting in an area. When I am walking I may not notice a camera, but i will definitely notice if a street is well lit.

Also, here is another article that is interesting on the topic.

http://fightingcrimefromabove.com/uk-1000-public-cameras-to-solve-just-one-crime/

Gordon Bombay said...

"We can prevent crime from happening by reducing the needs/desires for individuals to engage in that behavior. Good economic conditions, good health, comfortable living conditions and respect for all human beings just does that."

Yeah, Utopia would be great, but let's face it, there is no superman and heaven is not found on the earth. While the things you mention all lead to a better quality of life, even in some of the most economically sound suburbs we see violent crime. I think these cameras are more of a perception issue than anything. People will be able to look up, see the camera and know the area is monitored, giving them just that little bit more of confidence of where they're traveling.

We could put a cop on every street corner, but that would be way more expensive rather quickly. Also, I believe the cameras are motion activated so they're not rolling 24/7, just recording the empty sidewalks at three in the morning unless someone walks by.

Randy Simes said...

Gordon,

It's not necessarily utopia, but you can see the stark differences between the crime rates in the United States and those in other developed countries...and it's no where close with the U.S. failing miserably.

Monocle recently rated the most livable cities in the world. Only one U.S. city made the list (Honolulu), but when you looked at crime rates for these other cities they were astonishingly low. The only place that had anywhere close to 100 homicides/year was Tokyo with its 5+ million residents.

5chw4r7z said...

Randy, its already been proven that punishment does not deter crime.
But do you know what does? The fear of getting caught, if police response is quickened and criminals are apprehended faster, that will be more of a deterrent.

Instead of pouring more and more money into techniques that are meant to punish after the fact, we should be taking that money and investing in techniques that prevent the crime from happening in the first place.

exactamundo!!!!

Gamer said...

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sirking said...

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