Surveillance Cameras in Chicago: Extensive, Pervasive and Unregulated

Yesterday, the ACLU of Illinois released a new report detailing the threats to privacy Chicagoans face under the watchful eyes of that city's growing surveillance camera system. The report is the first large-scale, independent study of the city's integrated surveillance system — a system former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff deemed the most "extensive and integrated" in the nation.

Perhaps most stunning in this age of continuing economic hardship are the report's details about the staggering cost of purchasing, installing, maintaining and manning the Windy City's Big Brother. While the ranks of Chicago police officers drop due to lack of funding, more than $60 million has been spent on the city's surveillance camera network.

And to what end?

Numerous studies by independent scholars have found that video surveillance cameras do not actually reduce violent crime. For example,  a 2009 study of surveillance cameras in San Francisco found that cameras had no “statistically significant impact on violent crime” or “drug crime," and a 2008 report of Los Angeles's cameras found no statistically significant impact on violent crime, property crime or quality of life crime (such as prostitution or public drunkenness).

The Chicago Tribune's Steve Chapman might have put it best last year:

A more complete assessment indicates that when it comes to preventing and solving crimes, the cameras are about as useful as a pet rock. Britain has 4 million of them, but a 2005 report by the British government found little evidence to justify the effort. Video surveillance, it said, "produced no overall effect" on crime.

(That British report, "Assessing the Impact of CCTV," is especially relevant given that the U.K. is, according to a 2007 Privacy International assessment, an "endemic surveillance society.")

Despite this, city officials hope to expand the city's surveillance cameras system even more, making, in the words of Chicago Mayor Richard Daly, a camera "on every corner" a reality.

More details, including how the camera system can chill First Amendment rights, has not solved crimes and has cut into other crucial law enforcement efforts like community policing, are in the report Chicago's Video Surveillance Cameras: A Pervasive and Unregulated Threat to Our Privacy.

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Ski masks with paintball guns. Enough said.

Gun Owner

They can film us....
But just don't try to film them!


There is no such things as "freedom to be anonymous in public". That's an oxymoron.

We need cameras ON EVERY POLE in every city. However, they need to be PUBLIC cameras accessible to everyone via the internet. The camera net needs to be a public asset. All should be recording 24/7, at some low frame rate, to archive servers so that the images are available for evidence and for investigations. (And for suspicious wives to check where their husband's car is parked...)

Intervision Corp

Cool! Great equipment

outdoor lightin...

Sometimes, blogging is a bit tiresome specially if you need to update more topics.:,-;”

Stephen Floyd

With the advances in megapixel camera technology, I think that it is inevitable that ip cameras are going to start appearing pretty much everywhere. My company, sells to individuals as well as governments, municipalities,etc...the demand has been steadily rising over the last few years. It seems to me that video evidence is one of the few things that can seal a case, even more so than DNA evidence, but only if the resolution is very high.
Thanks for the interesting article!!

home surveillan...

Nice article, this shows that how we are safe & how the % of crime increasing. To stop it is the responsibility of the government that they issue order to install camera at every street, every pole, every signal, every organization etc.

city sightseein...

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