Chicago Surveillance Cameras to be Fitted With Listening Devices
Chicago Tribune | April 7 2004
Chicago will augment its camera surveillance of high-crime areas with a new listening device that can detect the sound of gunfire and lead to quick dispatch of police to the location, officials said Tuesday.
The announcement came as Mayor Richard Daley declared the test installation of 30 surveillance cameras a resounding success and said 50 more devices are on the way. Daley said he would like to see even more citywide, though he revealed no specific plans.
Technology being added to the new cameras and retrofitted to the older ones will alert police immediately to gunfire and allow simultaneous transmission of video images to the 911 emergency communications center and police headquarters, officials said.
The expansion and upgrades will bring the cost of the Operation Disruption surveillance effort to about $3.5 million, all of it funded by money seized from drug dealers, they said.
"This means, in essence, that the dope dealers are paying for the police to watch them and disrupt their activity," said police First Deputy Supt. Dana Starks.
"This new equipment has proven to be a strong crime deterrent," Daley said. "Through a combination of good police work, new technology like Operation Disruption and community involvement, we can make our children and our neighborhoods safer."
In the seven months since the 30 cameras were installed on light poles, calls to police relating to narcotics from the immediate areas have declined by 76 percent, and serious crimes have dropped by 17 percent, Starks said.
Arrests on the police beats covered by cameras rose by 60 percent, officials said.
Video images from the bulletproof boxes containing the cameras so far have gone only to laptop computers in nearby squad cars. More eyes now will be viewing them at the 911 center and police headquarters with the addition of microwave transmitters attached to the boxes.
Officials acknowledged that the transmitters could be knocked out by bullets, but Assistant Deputy Supt. Ron Huberman said it would take "a great lack of intelligence to want to shoot at these things" because of the gunshot-detection sensors that will be added inside the steel boxes.
Alert in 5 seconds
The sensors will alert dispatchers to shots within five seconds and will transmit the location of the gunfire to within 20 feet, allowing speedy dispatch of officers to the scene, Huberman said.
Without the sensors, police must depend on a citizen to hear gunshots, decide to make the call and dial 911, often with only an approximate location of the incident.
The sensors will detect the acoustic signature of a bullet traveling through the air rather than the sound of the shot, and the alarm will not be triggered by such things as backfiring autos or fireworks, Huberman said.
Beginning in September, the new cameras will be deployed at locations based on crime data and intelligence, officials said. All of the devices will be moved to different locations as needed, officials said.
Not everyone likes the new devices, however.
Sen. Rickey Hendon (D-Chicago) is attempting to push through legislation in Springfield that would limit the cameras to one per block and require the city to remove their distinctive flashing blue lights.
If Hendon had his way, the cameras would be eliminated altogether because, he said, they stigmatize neighborhoods as crime-ridden ghettos--now called "blue-light districts"--and are an intrusion into privacy.
Hendon said that numerous businesses had complained to him that the lights were driving customers away and that residents said they flashed in their home windows and kept them up at night.
Calls plan racist
Hendon also said that the city's plan was racist because the cameras are installed in mostly black and some Latino neighborhoods and that police seemed to be using them as a substitute for adequate officers.
"They're giving us a different form of police protection than they're giving white residents," he said. "We do want police protection. We do want to reduce crime. But no one should be forced to just give up and say, Hey, since we can't get it, we'll settle for the cameras."
Ald. Isaac Carothers (29th), chairman of the City Council's Police and Fire Committee, said he originally shared many of Hendon's concerns but now believes the cameras have reduced drug trafficking and other crime. He has received relatively few complaints from residents, he said.
West Side residents who appeared with Daley and Starks at a police headquarters news conference voiced their support.
"I welcomed them with open arms," said Nellie Joyce Carter, who lives in the 800 block of North Harding Avenue. "People don't want to be seen on camera if they are doing something wrong. ... We are very safe. Before, the kids couldn't play outside."