Is Big Brother a Big Deal or a Big Deterrent?

Photo credit: fto179's Flickr

As the city goes through budget cuts and fiscal instability it seems as if Mayor Bloomberg is contemplating adding many more cameras to New York’s version of the ‘ring of steel‘. After the attempted Times Square bombing Bloomberg visited London to see their ‘ring of steel’ up close and personal. London has one million security cameras blanketing nearly every square block of the city. The question is, would New Yorkers be comfortable with NYC doing something similar?

I’m a bit surprised on where I stand on this but it seems to me that with a few caveats to assure that the NYPD isn’t wasting resources using the security cameras to catch petty drug dealers and prostitutes and that they actually use the cameras to deter and identify criminals that are, will or have done harm to someone else or their property then not only would I support it I would applaud it.

I don’t imagine that on a city street a person has any expectation of privacy. Catching criminals in the act would, theoretically, save the taxpayer money since someone caught on camera committing a crime would be more likely to cop a plea than someone who committed a crime with no witnesses.

If the people of the city are kept up-to-date on the activities and uses of the cameras and they can provide a safer environment then I say go for it. Where I would have a real issue with these cameras would be if they were used to go back and review the day for the sole purpose of trying to spot a crime.

The three caveats that would be important for me to feel comfortable with a ‘ring of steel’ in NYC are:

  1. The cameras only be used to spot and identify a crime that is in progress.
  2. The cameras not be used to randomly “browse” through “high crime” areas after the fact trying to spot illegal activity.
  3. The government/police agency in charge of the cameras maintain strict control over who is allowed access to the video.

And that’s my answer. What do you think? Would a blanket of security cameras around the city make you feel safer or violated? I would love to hear what other people have to say about this issue.


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