Baltimore is expanding its public surveillance network to include private security cameras that city officials hope will quadruple the number of digital eyes on neighborhoods and make residents and business owners feel more secure, reports the Baltimore Sun.
Baltimore has nearly 700 pole cameras, and wants access to private cameras, too, where they’ll spy on citizens 24/7.
The new city database builds on the Police Department’s arrangements with several large organizations that have granted the agency access to their security cameras. Officers spy on visitors to Johns Hopkins Hospital, riders on Maryland Transit Administration buses and shoppers at Harborplace and The Gallery downtown, among other locations.
The database will act as a directory of cameras with information on where each is located, its owner and how long footage is retained. The listings will then be built into an interactive map.
The city launched a program two years in the making that gives police quicker access to the hundreds of private cameras mounted outside of businesses and homes around Baltimore. The voluntary program allows property owners to be part of the CitiWatch Community Partnership
, which maps where cameras are located and points detectives to available security footage.
CitiWatch Community Partnership, is being funded with a $53,000 grant from the Abell Foundation. The city will use the money, in part, to build the database through which the Police Department will have access to feeds from the cameras of businesses that opt to take part. The grant also will pay for outreach to businesses.
The first 300 cameras cost about $10 million to install, with $3 million coming from the city budget and the rest from federal Homeland Security (UASI) funds and money seized from drug dealers. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the city spends $1.4 million a year to operate the system.
Philadelphia, San Jose, Calif., and Chicago are among other cities that have similar private security camera registries or networks. In St. Louis, the American Civil Liberties Union released a report this month saying the plethora of surveillance cameras is threatening residents’ right to privacy. The report recommended that “any private cameras that become part of a larger government network need to maintain the same standards and procedures that govern the network.”
The ACLU has written numerous articles warning Americans of the dangers of mass surveillance, here’s a few you should read:
The state agreed to spend nearly $700,000 in federal stimulus funds to upgrade the video system at terminals including North Locust Point, South Locust Point and Fairfield.
The city action comes as the Maryland Port Administration is enhancing its surveillance in Baltimore
CitiWatch & SecuredCities
are both tied to DHS, SecuredCities tag line is “Secured Campus, Secured Transit, Secured Healthcare” Yes, you read that right DHS is spying on your healthcare records!
SecuredCities is funded by DHS grants
, DHS claims to be focused on high-risk cities, DHS also recommends using private businesses to fund their spying. If you guessed its for your safety, you get a gold star!
The Rawlings-Blake’s administration moved away from the blinking “blue light” cameras that became ubiquitous in some of Baltimore’s most crime-ridden neighborhoods. The city has been taking them out of service and adding cameras that stand out less, officials said.
Blinking “blue light” surveillance cameras in Baltimore are so bad Kenny Colvin wrote a rap song about it, the lyrics …”so tired of blue lights” should send shivers down your spine:
The expanding camera program was an issue of concern for former State’s Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, who said the cameras resulted in few arrests for violent crimes. After studying the program for one year, Jessamy said the vast majority of those arrested were for drug offenses.
The city’s Board of Estimates agreed last week to create a database that will make it easier for businesses to give the Police Department access to their private security cameras. The result could be hundreds more cameras connected to the city’s system.
“We’re going to focus on even small people, like mom-and-pop stores,” said Ian Brennan, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. “We’ve got to go do the outreach: ‘Hey, do you have a camera? Would you like to help?'”
Here’s what DHS/police are really asking: Would you like to help spy on innocent citizens?