New York City is seeking funding for a multi-million dollar surveillance system modeled on the one used in London. Police in the city already make use of the network of cameras in airports, banks, department stores and corporate offices — an arrangement used in cities across the country. This new project would augment that network with a city-wide grid. ‘The system has four components: license plate readers, surveillance cameras, a coordination center, and roadblocks that can swing into action when needed. The primary purpose of the system is deterrence, and then an investigative tool.’ But is it necessary? Steven Swain from the London Metropolitan Police states ‘I don’t know of a single incident where CCTV has actually been used to spot, apprehend or detain offenders in the act. Asked about their role in possibly stopping acts of terror, he said pointedly: “The presence of CCTV is irrelevant for those who want to sacrifice their lives to carry out a terrorist act.”
The implementation of the plan, called the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative, will require about $90 million, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said. It will cost about $8 million a year to maintain.
The city so far has raised about $25 million. Part of it has come from the Homeland Security Department and the rest from city coffers.
Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said she was alarmed by the prospect of government and law enforcement officials having records of a person’s daily activities.
“It wasn’t that long ago that J. Edgar Hoover was up to his dirty tricks using government spying to interfere with lawful dissent, undermine critics and pursue an unlawful agenda,” she said.
However, police officials repeatedly note there is no expectation of privacy in a public area and it is not a constitutional right.