[Hpn] Newsom impressed with crime cameras/Windy City police have dozen

William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Tue, 14 Jun 2005 17:28:43 -0400

These have been proven to create more problems in Miami, Florida than they
were worth remember......

" BIG BROTHER" Is Already Watching you?

In The Struggle
The original article can be found on SFGate.com here:

Tuesday, June 14, 2005 (SF Chronicle)
Newsom impressed with crime cameras/Windy City police have dozens trained on 
problem areas
Rachel Gordon, Chronicle Staff Writer

   Chicago -- The neighborhood Genaro Alcauter considers home is known as 
 "wild, wild west." Pocked by drugs and gangs, it is one of this city's
 most violent.
   Not long ago, police installed a high-tech surveillance camera atop a
 light pole across the street from his house with the hope of deterring
   "It's doing a good job," Alcauter, a machine operator and father of two,
 said from behind an iron gate that separates his home from the gritty
 street scene near the corner of Chicago and Homan avenues on Chicago's
 west side. The sound of gunfire, he said, is less frequent, and the dope
 dealers aren't as prevalent.
   Chicago now has 45 of the highly visible cameras deployed in the most
 troubled neighborhoods, and by year's end it plans to add 35 more,
 crediting them with fighting and preventing crime when matched with other
 law enforcement initiatives.
   Now, Mayor Gavin Newsom wants to launch a surveillance camera program in
 San Francisco on a test basis. His yearlong interest in the idea turned to
 resolve Monday after touring Chicago's wild, wild west and meeting with
 police officials here.
   "I never in my life imagined that I would be here taking seriously the
 prospect of advocating for cameras to be in high-crime areas," Newsom
 said. "I'm someone who believes very strongly in civil liberties, and I
 don't necessarily like the Big Brother notion.
   "At the same time," he added, "people are really starting to talk about
 them as a tremendous tool in stopping and fighting crime in particular hot
   As of Monday, the number of homicides in San Francisco this year stood at
 37 -- eight fewer than during the same period last year. But Newsom said
 he wanted to do more to combat violence and said surveillance cameras
 could help.
   The new generation of Chicago's cameras cost $30,000 each and are paid 
 with drug-forfeiture funds.
   The cameras serve as both eyes and ears for the police. Not only can they
 pan 360 degrees and zoom in on street activity up to three blocks away,
 the newest model responds to the sound of gunshots and alerts Chicago's
 emergency communications center of the location within seconds after a gun
 is fired.
   "When we first started to put them in, we were worried that the community
 wouldn't want them," said Chicago Police Superintendent Philip Cline.
 "Now, when we move one out of an area to put somewhere else, the community
 gets upset. They don't want to lose their camera."
   Murders and other violent crimes are down since the camera program 
 two years ago, Cline reported.
   Newsom, who is in Chicago for a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting, got to
 operate a camera that monitors the streets surrounding the Cabrini-Green
 public housing complex, long regarded as one of the most violent projects
 in the nation.
   While some of the high-rise buildings that make up Cabrini-Green have 
 razed, those remaining look war-torn: Plywood covers the windows; bullet
 holes scar a nearby fire station.
   Sitting in an unmarked police car equipped with a portable terminal and
 monitor, Newsom used a joystick to manipulate the camera. The digital
 images are stored for three days and then erased unless they're needed in
 a specific investigation.
   Chicago police are allowed to track activity only in public areas and are
 forbidden from monitoring people in their homes, inside businesses or
 inside vehicles.
   The information is fed into a centralized information system that allows
 police to track not only individual incidents but also trends, so law
 enforcement resources can be deployed where they're needed most.
   Newsom said he'd only move forward in San Francisco if there was 
 support. In March, tenant associations representing more than 11,000
 public housing residents in San Francisco asked the Housing Authority to
 explore the possibility of installing cameras.
   Newsom envisions starting the program on a limited basis, perhaps in
 Hunters Point. He said he could come up with the money for a small-scale
   "I want to test it and see what the reaction is," Newsom said. "If people
 don't like it, we'll move on to the next strategy of policing. But if
 people want it, and it's successful, and civil liberties are allowed to be
 protected, then it's worth replicating elsewhere."

   E-mail Rachel Gordon at rgordon@sfchronicle.com.
 Copyright 2005 SF Chronicle