NYPD Sued Over Spycams; Video 911?
The New York Police Department is happy to talk about its plans to ring lower Manhattan with thousands of security cameras. But the Department won’t say exactly where the cameras are, or what will be done with the data. So now the New York City Liberties Union is suing the NYPD, to force ’em to fess up on the spycams.
“The NYPS is planning blanket surveillance of millions of law-abiding New Yorkers, but it refuses to disclose even the simplest details of this costly proposal,” the NYCLU’s Donna Lieberman tells the New York Times. “A plan of this scope, expense and intrusiveness demands robust public debate and legislative oversight. The public has a right to this information.”
Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, says they’ve already turned over 91 pages to Lieberman & Co. The cops "already provided the NYCLU with information short of a road map for terrorists to use in another attack on the financial district," he says.
In some ways, it’s odd that this fight is going on at all. "The cameras become a great subject for conversation because they’ll all be in public areas," NYPD assistant chief John Colgan told me. "And quite frankly, we want people to see them."
So why won’t the NYPD just share its plans? Well, let’s just say they’re not too fond of the NYCLU over at One Police Plaza. So I’m sure the incentive to cooperate is rather low. But here’s another guess: The plans are being kept close because they’ll reveal that the camera system won’t work quite as well as advertised.
The surveillance project was billed as more than just another attempt to record the comings-and-goings of would-be terrorists. It was seen as a way to prevent terror strikes before they happen. "This is about identifying and eliminating a threat, rather than dealing with the consequences," Colgan said. "I’m not in the consequence-management business." But similar urban surveillance systems — in Chicago, in New York’s subways — haven’t lived up to their advanced billing. Maybe the NYPD’s isn’t quite working out, either.
And while Big Brother blinks, Little Brother is starting to open his eyes.
Callers to the city’s 911 and non-emergency 311 lines will now be able to send in photos and video to report crimes and complain about quality-of-life problems like uncollected garbage.
While hundreds of cities accept text messages to emergency hot lines, New York is believed to be the first with the capability to accept images, officials said.
By next year, photos sent by bystanders will be made available to patrol cars, and pictures could even be used as evidence in prosecutions, officials said.
The NYPD may or may not be watching. But your neighbor will be, for sure.