ACLU website tracks public surveillance
Published: Monday January 12, 2009

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University of California study finds cameras do not prevent violent crime

In response to a recent rise in public surveillance funding by the Department of Homeland Security, ACLU's Technology and Liberty program has launched a Web site to let America know –

The Web site provides news related to public video surveillance, links for more information, ways to take action, a 'horror stories' tab detailing recent misuse of surveillance authority and a flash map of locations in the US where municipal surveillance cameras have been installed.

“The new site will provide one-stop shopping for users, including the press, who want to know the big picture and the fine details about the spread of video surveillance systems,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, in a release.

Video surveillance is not a new phenomenon, but the amount of attention that the federal government has been paying is. In the past five years, the Department of Homeland Security has awarded $300 million in grants to state and local governments, all in the name of public video surveillance.

Meanwhile, a timely University of California study has found that San Francisco's $700,000 'Crime Camera' program has had no impact on violent crime since its 2005 installation. The study also states that robberies dropped significantly within each camera's radius, but notes that this finding is inconclusive.

The CITRIS report, three years in the making, states that "there are good be skeptical that the program, even with modifications, can deter violent crime."

Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty program, doesn't see video surveillance leading to a safer America.

“Public video surveillance threatens to fundamentally change the nature of our public spaces, and we need to track what is happening,” he said. “There are few good sources of information about the spread of video surveillance in the United States – we get regular media requests for such a source – and now we have created it.”