Dan’s post about CCTVs in London coincides with a report by CNN that if Manhattan can obtain $90 million in funding (not to mention $8 million a year for maintenance), the city will install its own “Ring of Steel” as the British call it. The plan is called the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative and the claim is that “The primary purpose of the system is deterrence, and then an investigative tool.”
Yet at least in London it appears that the cameras have helped track people after a crime has been committed while deterence is harder to show. Here are some choice quotes from the CNN article in which Steve Swain who worked with London’s system for four years talks about his experience with the London system:
“I don’t know of a single incident where CCTV has actually been used to spot, apprehend or detain offenders in the act, he said, referring to the London system. … 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.” … Swain does believe the cameras have great value in investigation work. He also said they are necessary to reassure the public that law enforcement is being aggressive. “You need to do this piece of theater so that if the terrorists are looking at you, they can see that you’ve got some measures in place,” he said.
In contrast the article also details the way that Washington D.C.; Atlanta, Georgia; Baltimore, Maryland; and Chicago, Illinois among other cities use private cameras mixed with public ones as part of law enforcement . In addition, some cities have seen a drop in crime which they attribute to the cameras.
In short, one way or the other cameras are here, and we are on them. So whiten those teeth, fix your hair, get an agent, and smile, because This Is Your Life is back, and you are the star.