This summer downtown Atlanta will be on camera. Yes, nearly every corner will be equipped with a camera of one kind or another. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution even private business footage will be streamed into a Police “video integration center” where it’s expected at least 500 cameras will be hooked in by mid-summer.
The center will compile and analyze footage, providing police instant access to scenes where they might not be physically present. The program is largely funded by $2.6 million in federal Homeland Security grants but also an additional half-million from the Atlanta Police Foundation.
The Department plans to staff the video center with 5 to 7 people around the clock, watching the monitors stream footage from corners and buildings like CNN and America’s Mart as well as MARTA and the Georgia Department of Transportation.
The cameras feature new technology called gun-spotter, a handy tool that alerts cameras to gunfire and sends them panning towards the sounds. Things like facial recognition, plate reading, and tracking are not yet ready for use, according to the AJC.
Of course the program isn’t without critics and rightfully so. It all seems a bit “Big Brother”-esque, with the police being able to monitor more and more of our movements. The ACLU recently issued a report asking for a moratorium on Chicago’s surveillance system, claiming further expansion would be a threat on personal privacy. The Atlanta program, incidentally, is modeled after Chicago’s.
Though supporters point to a few cases where cameras have caught a crime in progress, these cameras rarely prevent or stop crime and instead simply move it around. A lawyer for the Illinois ACLU states “Cameras do not deter people from committing criminal offenses, they just displace it.” After all, no determined criminal is going to cancel their activities when they can simply go around the corner, out of sight from the cameras.
Some citizens see the value in these cameras, stating privacy is elusive now anyways, with our every move nearly being tracked on voluntary social media. But some see the ever-watchful police eye as eerie and a follower they would rather not have to deal with.
The chances of you getting caught doing something criminal on these cameras are pretty rare, though depending on the quality, they might make decent evidence in court. You are far more likely to be confronted with eyewitness testimony, which can quickly fall apart in court.
As crime gets smarter and technology evolves, the police will continue to try and stay ahead of the curve. It’s a cat-and-mouse game as old as time.