Detroit and New Orleans are quickly becoming examples of a city under total surveillance. How can you prevent your hometown from becoming a Surveillance State?
New reports on the increasing amount of surveillance conducted by police in New Orleans and Detroit are causing concern among local residents. The Intercept recently reported on the $40 million surveillance grid being erected in the city under the guise of a “public safety plan.”
This plan includes a massive closed-circuit camera system, as well as automatic license plate readers and a city ordinance requiring owners of bars and liquor stores to install cameras outside their businesses. Despite a lack of evidence showing that the surveillance programs actually reduce crime, city officials are pushing forth with little oversight.
The Intercept reports:
“It seems that the only oversight will come from the city’s Office of Homeland Security and from within the police department itself, which is currently under a federal consent decree for a myriad of violations including “a pattern of stops, searches, and arrests that violate the Fourth Amendment.
“A spokesperson for the New Orleans Police Department insisted that the department had controls on access to its systems, and that all activity on the system is logged and monitored, leaving an audit trail in cases of abuse. But beyond that, the department has failed to answer basic questions about how the cameras will be used, what technology it will incorporate, how long the footage will be stored, and who will have access to the footage.”
Further, The Intercept notes that New Orleans civilians were largely left out of the conversation and planning for the mass surveillance grid. Other than representatives from the tourism and service industries, New Orleans residents were provided with zero public hearings or opportunity to discuss the implications of the plan.
With the recent addition of the Real Time Crime Monitoring Center, New Orleans joins cities like Los Angeles and Houston who have access to hundreds (if not thousands) of cameras that are constantly watching the public.
The controversial city ordinance would feed all the footage from the cameras outside businesses that sell alcohol to the monitoring center. In early February, New Orleans City Council delayed the vote on the ordinance until late March.
Unfortunately, these new programs are only the latest form of surveillance facing the people of New Orleans. Activist Post recently reported:
“New Orleans residents might have been swept up in a dragnet of data collection without their knowledge. The private global data collection and analysis corporation, Palantir Technologies, helped launch a secret software program in 2012 with New Orleans police to track connections between gang members.
“Palantir was founded by the CIA’s venture capital firm, making the current findings exponentially worse for those who value civil liberties. Moreover, Winston documents the lengths that the partnership went to cover up the program’s disclosure.”
Detroit residents are also facing invasive security measures promoted as tools for fighting crime. The American Civil Liberties Union is one of the main critics and opponents of Detroit’s program, known as Project Green Light.
“If you’ve been to Detroit recently, you may have seen flashing green lights outside liquor stores, gas stations, and other businesses. The lights, according to police, are supposed to act as a deterrent, warning criminals that cameras are present, streaming real-time images of everyone entering or leaving the premises straight into police headquarters,” the ACLU writes.
“This is the Motor City’s two-year-old surveillance program, Project Green Light, which its evangelists argue reduces crime at minimal expense to the city’s taxpayers.”
The program offers businesses preferential treatment in exchange for giving up privacy, including first priority for 911 calls. However, in order to receive this apparent benefit, business owners must pay between $4,000 to $6,000 to participate in Project Green Light.
The money goes towards the purchase of a minimum of four high-definition surveillance cameras and other recording equipment. In addition, business owners must pay $150 a month to store the recordings in the Cloud. This means that Detroit business owners are literally subsidizing the construction of a massive surveillance apparatus across Detroit.
As the ACLU notes:
“Programs like these violate our constitutional right to privacy by allowing police to peer into our lives without having to bother to get a search warrant.” Not to mention, the constant video streaming will give state and federal law enforcement agencies access to 24 hour recordings of innocent people.
“This means that even when not open to the public, cameras would capture the inside and outside of restaurants, book stores, and coffee shops, which are common meeting places for many organizations, such as unions, immigrant rights advocates, and religious congregations,” the ACLU reported.
The ACLU also notes that National Geographic has published an analysis of surveillance networks from around the world which concluded that there is no evidence that these types of programs prevent crimes. NatGeo also mentions that cities with no history of terror attacks and relatively low crime rates are also embracing surveillance tech.
“I checked out the CCTV network that has quietly spread throughout downtown Houston, Texas. As recently as 2005, the city didn’t have a single such camera. But then Dennis Storemski, the director of the Mayor’s Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security, began touring other cities. “Basically, it was what I saw in London that got me interested in the technology,” he recalls.
“Today, thanks to federal grants, Houston has 900 CCTV cameras, with access to an additional 400. As in London, officials don’t monitor every camera every minute — and as such, Storemski says, “it’s not surveillance per se. We’ve wanted to take away the expectation that people are watching.” Perhaps for that reason, Houston’s CCTV reach will soon expand well beyond downtown, but — in a state hardly known as trusting of government — without the slightest drama.”
The reality is that mass surveillance grids like the ones in London, Hong Kong, New Orleans, L.A., New York City, and Houston are the future for all major cities and, eventually, every corner of the world. Is there any way to combat the growth of this invasive technology? Can the people put forth any reasonable resistance?