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You are being watched

Well, not all of you.

Not if you live in the suburbs.

But if you live in much of the city, especially in neighborhoods considered high-crime areas, chances are police surveillance cameras are trained on some of the streets you travel. Brian Meyer reported Wednesday that City Hall's surveillance network is now operating at 43 sites. Here's a map showing the current locations. By the end of the year, the city expects to have more than 100 cameras in operation.

I guess I must be old-fashioned, in a Ron Paul kind of way. I just don't think walking down the street should make me subject to government surveillance. Has 9/11 made us that indifferent to civil liberties?

I can understand the fears and frustrations of people living in high-crime neighborhoods and why the cameras might provide them a sense of increased security. But there is the potential for abuse, particularly because the police have carte blanche on how they use the cameras.

Think not? Here's what police spokesman Mike DeGeorge told me Wednesday afternoon after I asked for a copy of laws and rules that govern the department's surveillance operation.

"It's my understanding there are no state, local or city laws or ordinances governing the cameras. As far as departmentally, the administration is formulating a policy plan at this point," he said.

One needs to look no further than the illegal tactics of New York City police leading up to the last Republican National Convention for an example of police misusing their surveillance powers. Read this New York Times story.

Police officials here said they have no intention of playing Big Brother. But there are no rules, no do's and don'ts in place.

Moreover, it wasn't that long ago that police officers, upset with a lack of a new labor contract, targeted the public with a parking ticket blitz that many citizens saw as an abuse of their power.


Local Government
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