nighteyes1991US doles out millions for street camerasMon Aug 13, 2007 23:40
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Subject: [Phantom Truth] US doles out millions for street cameras
Date: Tue, 14 Aug 2007 03:36:18 -0000
The Department of Homeland Security is funneling millions of dollars
to local governments nationwide for purchasing high-tech video camera
networks, accelerating the rise of a "surveillance society" in which
the sense of freedom that stems from being anonymous in public will
be lost, privacy rights advocates warn.
Since 2003, the department has handed out some $23 billion in federal
grants to local governments for equipment and training to help combat
terrorism. Most of the money paid for emergency drills and upgrades
to basic items, from radios to fences. But the department also has
doled out millions on surveillance cameras, transforming city streets
and parks into places under constant observation.
The department will not say how much of its taxpayer-funded grants
have gone to cameras. But a Globe search of local newspapers and
congressional press releases shows that a large number of new
surveillance systems, costing at least tens and probably hundreds of
millions of dollars, are being simultaneously installed around the
country as part of homeland security grants.
In the last month, cities that have moved forward on plans for
surveillance networks financed by the Homeland Security Department
include St. Paul, which got a $1.2 million grant for 60 cameras for
downtown; Madison, Wis., which is buying a 32-camera network with a
$388,000 grant; and Pittsburgh, which is adding 83 cameras to its
downtown with a $2.58 million grant.
Small towns are also getting their share of the federal money for
surveillance to thwart crime and terrorism.
Recent examples include Liberty, Kan. (population 95), which accepted
a federal grant to install a $5,000 G2 Sentinel camera in its park,
and Scottsbluff, Neb. (population 14,000), where police used a
$180,000 Homeland Security Department grant to purchase four closed-
circuit digital cameras and two monitors, a system originally
designed for Times Square in New York City.
"We certainly wouldn't have been able to purchase this system without
those funds," police Captain Brian Wasson told the Scottsbluff Star-
Other large cities and small towns have also joined in since 2003.
Federal money is helping New York, Baltimore, and Chicago build
massive surveillance systems that may also link thousands of
privately owned security cameras. Boston has installed about 500
cameras in the MBTA system, funded in part with homeland security
Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy Information
Center, said Homeland Security Department is the primary driver in
spreading surveillance cameras, making their adoption more attractive
by offering federal money to city and state leaders.
Homeland Security Department spokesman Russ Knocke said that it is
difficult to say how much money has been spent on surveillance
cameras because many grants awarded to states or cities contained
money for cameras and other equipment. Knocke defended the funding of
video networks as a valuable tool for protecting the nation. "We will
encourage their use in the future," he added.
By Charlie Savage, Globe Staff
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