Surveillance City & The Forgotten War
What are the trade off between security and freedom? How much are we willing to give in order to feel safe? Camden, NJ used to be able to boast the highest crime rate in the United States of America. This improvrished city was forced to cut its police force by half. A new police forced was commisioned by governer Chris Christy, simply titled Metro. This new system employed military-like patrol, cutting edge computer systems, and video technology. It has been called the "Future of American Policing".
County Metro has made two major changes: drastically increasing foot patrol on the streets and covering 2/3 of the city with cameras. The cameras are military grade and accompanied with shot spotters. Shot spotters are hidden microphones that can triangulate the sound of a gun shot and provide the location of the crime. Metro is able to respond within 3.5 minutes, 3 times faster than the nation average.
The cameras are monitored from the "RT-TOIC" control room, or real time- tactical operation intellegents center. They constantly monitor the cameras which target "common areas" of crime. It is not said whether the "common areas" are found through statistics, but it seems that it could definately lead to racial profiling. There is already a common saying within the community: Black people standing/ white people walking. Meaning if you fall into one of these demographics you are already consisdered a suspect. Assumptions like these make it difficult for resisdents to feel comfortable outside their own homes and discourages racial integration by making white people feel unwelcomed in these areas.
There seems to be mixed feelings by the locals. While some feel stiffled by the surviellence and harrassment, police claim that others are clamoring for more cameras. Some residents have tried to fight back by employing tools such as police scanners in the form of phone apps.
This type of policing disproportionately target low income minorities. What is to stop the police from abusing this sort of technology? How long will the footage be kept on file? Could the footage be used for blackmail? The company claims to have transparency, but the "transparency" is only between the camera providers and the police force. There are currently not uniform guidelines or independent overview. Thus far the policing of this system is at the complete disgression of Metro.
There is the well-known adage, "Nothing to hide, nothing to lose," but this has been proven wrong everytime the US or UK filmed and monitored a mosque with no other reason than the members are muslim.
All of this being said, the statistic show that this kind of monitoring does work. In East Orange, New Jersey the crime rate droped by 50% over three years. Camden's crime has dropped by 14% in the first 6 months. Is this type of surveillance enevitable? If so, what kind of demads or regulations will citizens demand local, state, and nation-wide? What is the social cost of these criminalogical benefits? If people are scared to be on the streets, will crime just spill over into intertent and closed door deals?
In the end an officer claims that Camden has not been turned into a police state. He defines a "police state" as a place where neighborhoods are militarized, citizens movements are monitored and regulated, and movement is restricted. Is Camden a police state? You decide.