Chicago's Camera Complex

By aaroncynic in News on Apr 6, 2010 9:00PM

Chicago is leading the charge into a brave new world of cities under constant surveillance. The Associated Press (via the Tribune) reports that Chicago has the most surveillance cameras in the United States, with more than 10,000 public and private cameras throughout the city. The cameras, on everything from street sweepers to red lights are linked together via Chicago’s 911 system. While exact numbers aren’t available the Trib estimates around 1,500 cameras have been installed by emergency services, 6,500 installed in schools and the rest are scattered throughout various public and private facilities. Michael Chertoff, former Homeland Security secretary of the system: “I don’t think there is another city in the U.S. that has as an extensive and integrated camera network.”

Joe Santiago, the city’s newly appointed emergency management chief doesn’t feel the network is enough. The Sun Times reports Santiago hopes to link even more private sector cameras into the network, bemoaning the fact that parts of the city still can’t be seen. Aside from the sometimes intense debate over traffic cameras, Chicagoans don’t seem to mind the idea of big brother looking over their shoulder. Spokesman for the Illinois ACLU Edwin Yohnka said “it does appear that people only object is when they get a ticket for running a red light.”

As we pointed out in our post on the city's desire for covert cameras, the actual crime fighting capability of even an integrated network is suspect. We also wonder what it means when some CPD officers are nervous about cameras keeping an eye on them while the rest of us seem to be content to have surveillance cameras capture our image dozens or even hundreds of times a day. Have we become so used to an eye in the sky that the idea of privacy is dead? It’s possible - as Paul Green, a Roosevelt University political science professor points out, Mayor Daley “could put 10,000 more cameras up and nobody would say anything.”