Chicago To Expand Video Surveillance System
New Cameras, Microphones To Cost $3 Million
NBC News | November 30, 2004
CHICAGO -- In Chicago, Big Brother isn't only watching you; he's listening, too. Starting in December, police will begin to install 50 new street surveillance cameras, complete with gunshot detectors like those on cameras already in place, city officials announced Tuesday. Developers say the microphones are sensitive enough to detect when a silencer is being used to muffle the sound of gunfire.
City officials are calling the safety program Operation Disruption, NBC5's Natalie Martinez reported. The program began last summer with 30 cameras set up throughout Chicago. The first cameras sent information back to officers' laptop computers in squad cars, but the expanded system will be controlled through a central command center, where retired police officers will monitor activity.
"We've integrated the gunshot detection with the video surveillance that actually electronically identifies the location and turns in the location of the gunshot, and we've integrated that with wireless technology that remotely feeds the center," said Ron Huberman, executive director of the city's Office of Emergency Management and Communications.
Authorities said the system allows police the freedom to patrol high-crime neighborhoods, where cameras are perched in bulletproof boxes atop light poles. The cameras allow instant replay and display compass information so controllers can more easily help police find victims and perpetrators of crimes.
Mayor Richard M. Daley said the camera program shows the city is paving the way for the rest of the country.
"We're so far advanced than any other city -- and sometimes the state and federal governments -- they come here to look at the technology," Daley said.
At a press conference Tuesday, Chicago leaders credited the camera system for the current 12-year low in violent crime rates and a reduction in the number of homicides.
"We've had 107 requests for the tapes from the cameras. We have inventoried over 56 usable videos," said Chicago Police 1st Deputy Superintendent Dana Starks.
The expansion to Operation Disruption will cost almost $3 million, with the funding coming strictly from money police seize from drug dealers, Martinez reported.