The New York Police Department has begun installing wireless cameras across New York City in a bid to curb violence in the city and also fight terrorism. By the project’s completion, nearly 500 cameras will be installed at a cost of nearly $9 million.
The initiative is modeled after a similar one in London that is used to watch the city’s financial district. New York City hopes to install hundreds more, however it is awaiting on $81.5 million worth of requested funds to be provided through grants from the federal government.
While the NYPD sees the money as a wise investment, privacy advocates have criticized the move. They say there is no guarantee that the cameras wouldn’t be used for racial profiling or voyeurism, as not enough studies have been done on the plan — a charge the NYPD denies.
The department said it had hired lawyers to advise about the project, and assured cameras would only be installed in public areas. Plus, the benefit of having an extra pair of eyes in problem areas could help everyone in the end, the NYPD says, as lawbreakers would be more weary of committing crimes.
However, opponents cite a 2002 British survey that showed little evidence of a drop in crime following the installation of cameras in 14 cities. Still, those tapes were used in identifying suspects of a failed follow-up attack to last year’s London transit bombings.
New York City’s plan is nothing new; it already has 1,000 cameras is the city, and some 3,100 monitoring housing projects. Chicago has a 2,000-camera system, with Philadelphia also deploying wireless cameras in troubled areas.