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New Orleans Ditches Surveillance Cameras

October 29, 2010

For a while now, I have been wondering how long it would be before the combination of cost and manifest ineffectiveness made urban authorities consider removing CCTV schemes. I had thought, given its long history of public space video surveillance, was that it might be Britain where this was most like to happen. What I didn’t expect was that one of the first big examples would be from the USA, which since 2001 has been going through the kind of expansion of CCTV seen in Britain in the 1990s.

But, surprise, surprise, here is New Orleans’ Mayor, Mitch Landrieu, arguing that a mere 6 indictments in 7 years (which is the success rate of New Orleans’ video surveillance system) is not enough to justify the costs and intrusion of CCTV:

“Most of us can agree that based on the way that they were installed, based on the way that they operated and the way that they were not maintained, that they were not a good investment.”

Woah! What was that? Public space CCTV doesn’t work? Who knew?

Well actually, it isn’t just New Orleans and its particular unmaintained and faulty system. Most urban authorities already know this. Police forced already know this. I would argue that much the same could be said for those in London, which has an far, far more intensive network in public spaces, yet the police themselves admit that only 3% of street robberies are solved with the help of CCTV. The difference is that now some of them are admitting what they have known for some time. The problem is that the public still largely believe that they ‘work’ (whatever that means anyway). And ironically this means in New Orleans that the cameras are staying up, even if they are turned off (as in fact many all over the world are anyway, and many more are not actually being watched by anyone)…

Meanwhile, in the rest of the USA, Homeland Security and stimulus plan-funded Justice Department CCTV systems continue to proliferate.

(Thanks to Aaron Martin for finding this story!)

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