D.C. Police Pushing for Real-Time Monitoring

Posted by Amy Hite on August 19, 2013

Since the installation of neighborhood crime cameras in 2006, Washington, D.C. police have been increasingly relying on video footage pulled from surveillance cameras as a primary investigative tool.

Although real-time monitoring still isn’t an option for the MPD, investigators can currently request recorded footage from the city’s extensive surveillance network, which includes over 150 speed cameras, 50 red light lenses, and 123 closed-circuit television cameras.

However, recognizing the value of live video monitoring, D.C. law officers and city leaders are pushing for much more free-reign, real-time access to surveillance camera feeds, something that police departments in other cities such as Chicago, Illinois, and Baltimore already have at their disposal. This would allow them to monitor hundreds of live camera feeds across the city at any given time.

Better Safe Than Sorry

While civil libertarians continue to voice predictable but not unreasonable concerns about Big Brother-type privacy intrusions, the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center released a report in 2011 that stated, “Those engaged in active monitoring are all sworn personnel and they, along with other officers working in the control center monitoring room, must sign a statement acknowledging the rules regarding the privacy rights of those being monitored.”

Also, in light of recent events like the Boston Marathon bombing, the political and public tide might be shifting in favor of the old maxim, “Better safe than sorry.” D.C. council member and candidate for mayor Tommy Wells is in favor of expanding MPD’s ability to live-monitor crime cameras. According to the Washington Times, Wells even goes as far as to support the implementation of “hot spot” crime cameras that could be deployed quickly to high-crime areas, much like mobile speed cameras.

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