Chicago: Big Brother or Big Safety Net?
The Chicago area is home to SDM’s editorial staff, but many people don’t know that the city of Chicago itself is also home to what some security experts call the most extensive municipal video surveillance system in the United States.
This surveillance system made headlines today in the daily newspaper, Chicago Tribune, which quotes former Homeland Security Secretary, Michael Chertoff, as saying, “I don’t think there is another city in the U.S. that has as an extensive and integrated camera network as Chicago has.” http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-ap-us-chicago-cameras-everywhere,0,1636617.story
The story relates surveillance systems in other U.S. cities, but contrasts their effectiveness and networkability with that of Chicago’s surveillance network – a project that encompasses both private camera feeds as well as cameras installed by various public agencies. The size of this surveillance network is approximately 10,000 cameras with plans to grow, according to the Chicago Tribune article, which cites Chicago police Superintendent Jody Weis as saying he would like to add covert cameras to the system.
Two facts of special interest in this article are, first, that the city’s surveillance network has assisted in 4,000 arrests made since 2006; and second, that residents and visitors don’t seem to mind or decry the surveillance project as an invasion of privacy. The Chicago Tribune story cites police as saying “they usually hear from Chicago residents about the cameras only when they want one installed in their neighborhood or worry one will be removed.” The article reports that this claim is even supported by The American Civil Liberties Union.
As Chicago resident myself, I must agree. I feel a certain measure of safety when I see a camera installed on a street I’m traveling on. And that’s not only the security industry in me speaking.