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Newark and the Future of Crime Fighting 172

theodp writes "Newark Mayor Cory Booker is betting that cutting-edge technology will reduce crime and spark an economic renaissance. From a newly opened Surveillance Operations Center, cops armed with joystick controllers monitor live video feeds from more than 100 donated cameras scattered across the crime-ridden city. The moves are drawing kudos from businesses like Amazon subsidiary Audible.com, which has moved its HQ to downtown Newark, where space is 50% cheaper than in Manhattan. But are citizens giving up too much privacy?"
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Newark and the Future of Crime Fighting

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  • by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Monday September 01, 2008 @05:48AM (#24828483)

    "So this is how liberty dies, to thunderous applause"

    at least that's how this summary paints it.

    They've had this in london for a while, and it's been a severe invasion of privacy.

    There have been several instances where the police have used cameras to follow people home and actually gaze through their windows.

    One particular man was so horrified he started protesting it, dressing up in bizarre costumes and skulking the streets provoking police responses.

    note to self: scratch newark off potential career location list.

  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Monday September 01, 2008 @05:50AM (#24828495)

    The UK has the most camera's per capita, I think. Are there any numbers available on how much crime has decreased in those areas where the camera's are? Also how much have they incread in surrounding areas where they are not.

    Next what is the cost to keep them running and what was the value of goods being stolen.

    Also it would be interesting to see if people feel safer because there are camera's to watch over them or if they feel unsafer to have camera's watch over them.

    I can imagine that the cost is much higher and that theft has just moved and people feel less safe while it costs much more even when compared to what is stolen. So all in all good for the few companies in those areas, but bad for the community as a whole.

    Only real figures will tell.

  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Monday September 01, 2008 @05:57AM (#24828541)

    Where we have probably more surveillance than anywhere else in the world, let me shed a little light on how CCTV winds up working in the real world.

    • There are always blind spots where no camera can see.
    • You can't expect particularly high quality images. I can't count the number of times I've seen CCTV footage on television where it appears that the police are seeking an amorphous grey blob. The cameras appear to be improving slightly but don't bet on it.
    • If the cameras are controllable from a central control room, then getting a decent shot of someone breaking the law is dependant on there being no attractive women walking past in the opposite direction at the time.
    • Those who think that this could ultimately be a good thing from a civil liberties perspective - I know of no CCTV camera which has caught evidence of police misconduct, even when there is strong reason to believe that they should have done so. (Why this should be the case I leave as an exercise to the reader)
    • Those who think this is a bad thing from a civil liberties perspective - this depends entirely on how law enforcement uses the tool. There's a temptation there, but to be honest there are so many cameras relative to the number of people looking at them that I can't see mass suppression being an issue unless/until we have computer software which can reliably analyse the video feed of every camera and react in real time. Which is not to say that such software won't exist, but I don't think it does yet.
  • by monsul ( 1342167 ) on Monday September 01, 2008 @05:58AM (#24828547) Homepage

    Nope, they don't reduce crime. They don't even prevent them. They don't deter and they are pretty much useless.

    CCTV cameras are everywhere in the UK, but, according to a recent report by the CCTV manager of Scotland Yard... They simply don't work, despite billions of UKP invested. You can read this analysis here [guardian.co.uk].

    Putting real, flesh-and-blood policemen, on the beat is the way to go. Putting cameras (which hardly qualifies as high-tech anyway) don't work.

    That's an oversimplification. CCTV works against certain kinds of crime (burglary for example) but it is quite ineffective against others such as mugging (much more fast paced). The error made by the british was to think that cameras solve ALL kinds of crime

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 01, 2008 @06:19AM (#24828655)

    Right in the centre of London there's a square mile managed not by the Metropolitan Police but by the City of London police, and it's armed to the teeth with CCTV. Unlike recent America, a few years ago London did have a real problem with terrorism: every few months the Provisional IRA would plant a bomb, so the idea initially was to identify suspicious behaviour and/or to have records of just about fucking everything, so the perp dropping the bag or whatever could be identified after the fact. Did it stop the bombings? Of course it fucking didn't. This is London, not some village in the middle of nowhere:

    (1) A wig, fake moustache, make-up and (fuck me this is high-tech!) change of clothing are enough to make anyone's face completely unrecognisable by current CCTV standards, and anyone will have mingled quickly into the crowd of a million other Londonners;

    (2) Over time, criminals learn where the cameras are: each time evidence comes to court, each time someone infiltrates the police. I have one family member who works in a police operations centre, and he had to go through all the security vetting bullshit - the usual crap that's easily defeated by planting someone who (oh, much like, say, those in the 9/11 attacks) has a spotless record to date.

    Now the terrorism threat is over (no really, compared to London when the Troubles crossed to the mainland, it's over), what do the City of London police busy themselves with? You may have heard of them as the guys that over-zealously notified a Church of Scientology protester that they shouldn't write signs saying mean things [guardian.co.uk] about the organisation. And it has nothing to do with the `Church' giving junkets to high-ranking policemen [guardian.co.uk], of course. They also occasionally follow those who look like they shouldn't be driving high-priced cars (remember this is around the rich financial district).

  • by cornjchob ( 514035 ) <thisiswherejunkgoes@gmail.com> on Monday September 01, 2008 @06:34AM (#24828747)

    Terrible crime will continue so long as terrible abridgements of liberty continue--people are always going to want grog, coke, meth and weed, and many people are ready to pay a lot of money for it. And just as many people are ready to do whatever they need to to make some money.

    This is going to do is cause prices to go up, which in turn will lead to worse turf wars and drug related violence, which shakes everything else around it up. It's a white elephant, I hope this post will encourage some /.ers to look into this. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) is a great place to start. We're talking $69,000,000,000/year to fight MARIJUANA. In fact, well over 800,000 in '06 went to prison solely for marijuana related charges, of these something like 70, 80% are minorities (though by a very large margin, drug users are white). If you want to get rid of crime, you need to get rid of the black market for drugs.

  • Giving up what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Monday September 01, 2008 @06:47AM (#24828821)

    Since when do citizens "Give up" their privacy? In this case, and in most cases, they're having it taken from them by the government...

    The simple fact is that the notion anything you do IN PUBLIC is in fact private, is utterly insane.

    There are lots of great reasons to not like cameras all over. Giving up some imaginary "privacy" component to your public strolls is not, nor will it ever be, one of them.

    People need to get a grip and understand they cannot walk around in a protected bubble 24/7.

  • by 1u3hr ( 530656 ) on Monday September 01, 2008 @09:15AM (#24829727)
    ... parliament. They outlawed all firearms. ....

    Ill-informed American gun nut alert. Prepare for gusts of complete bullshit and "facts" gleaned from American gun advocacy groups trying to paint the rest of the world as "deprived" of their God-given Right to Bear Arms, and how they're all pansies/Commies/Muslims who Hate Freedom because they think guns are best left to the army and not vigilante cowboys.

  • by irtza ( 893217 ) on Monday September 01, 2008 @10:05AM (#24830115) Homepage

    Well, I seriously doubt that you are the type of person that would have set foot in newark prior to the cameras. I work there now and they have a camera on the street which I work.

    The purpose of government is to provide a sense of security; to provide an environment in which you can flourish. Newark was nowhere near that setup. if walking down the street was taking a risk - I assure you that you would give up freedoms. The level of freedoms you will give up will be directly proportional to the level of threat you feel.

    At a baseline, we have given up community property rights, the right to drive at will, along with hundreds of other petty infringements of our freedom just to make sure people don't run us over on the streets, or so car accidents are minimized. Cameras in PUBLIC areas allowing officers to see a broader area is hardly an infringement of our liberty. One, this provides more substantive evidence that a crime is being committed than the word of one officer. It forces ethical responses from the officers. It provides a real sense of security for the people there.

    When you end up in an environment where robbery is as daily occurrence and murder isn't out of the ordinary, I would love to see you continue to insist that police officers not be aggressive and that the areas you are in be unmonitored. Most people will demand a more aggressive stand by law enforcement and honestly this sounds a lot better than road blocks and car searches.

  • by ColdSam ( 884768 ) on Monday September 01, 2008 @09:54PM (#24837211)
    You're making a case that it is possible for them to use CCTVs this way, not that there is any evidence that they are doing so. But here is the contradiction you seem to have missed - if they were so adept at using these cameras to invade our privacy then they should certainly be able to catch common criminals.

    You just can't argue both sides - i.e. that authorities can't identify a mugger, but they know exactly who you are and can even tell which page of The Catcher in the Rye you're reading.
  • by ColdSam ( 884768 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @02:48PM (#24847597)

    Perhaps I've said something to offend you or you've misunderstood a previous comment I made somewhere, but in this case, I don't understand your objections here.

    It doesn't offend me, but it just seems a waste of time. You keep diverting the discussion away from the simple contradiction I pointed out, rather than addressing it.

    There is no paradox: it would, unfortunately, be realistic to operate an improved CCTV network in a way that supports state surveillance, yet which still isn't a cost-effective means of preventing crime.

    It's possible, but is it reasonable to make that assumption? We've had many on here claim boldly "CCTVs don't work!" while providing either no evidence to support it, or scant evidence which shows that current (newly installed) CCTVs have inconclusive results (and in fact really indicate that CCTVs do work and have merely fallen short of expectations).

    Then at the same time you have the privacy advocates like yourself who use a completely different standard, e.g. new technology, better police work, and legal, societal and procedural changes, ... to denounce those same systems.

    I just don't find it reasonable and I don't see how anyone with reasonable perspective can.

    A CCTV camera can help to track someone, and perhaps with improved technology that would make it more useful for identifying who committed a crime after the fact, but it still can't jump down off a post and help if you're being mugged.

    Respectfully, I think you have blinders on and are just looking for limitations to support your viewpoint on privacy. There are a couple of easy responses to your concerns:
    1) tracking and identifying criminals is a great boon in solving crime and obtaining convictions - surely that is a good thing
    2) a camera combined with a speaker certainly could be used to stop a crime in progress, without a single police officer getting off his ass
    3) the camera can't jump down, but it will act as a deterrent and it will greatly extend the range of actual police officers

    The question remains whether it is the most cost-effective way to reduce crime. But stating outright that CCTVs can't be a useful tool is just silly and ignorant, IMO.

Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith. - Paul Tillich, German theologian and historian