December 27, 2013

2014 is shaping up to be the Year of Surveillance for the Houston P.D, both a good and bad thing for the public.

hpdwatchIn addition to outfitting police with body cams, the city is moving to add nearly 180 costly surveillance cameras to the downtown area.

The cameras will be pointed at “public areas around downtown, stadiums and the theater district,” according to the Houston Chronicle, and will set the city back by $18 million in federal funds, with another $5 million to spare.

However, as the Chronicle points out, studies have shown surveillance cameras rarely, if ever, lead to lower crime.

A 2009 survey conducted by New York University found that surveillance cameras “do not deter [crime] much if at all.” Surveillance cameras can, however, sometimes help police solve crimes.

As mentioned, police are also moving to video tape themselves.

Last week, the Houston P.D. announced it began outfitting dozens of officers with “body cameras” as part of a pilot program.

At least 100 $2,500 cameras, with the ability to record both video and audio, have been distributed for officers to wear on their uniforms.

Body cameras will undoubtedly lead to greater police honesty and accountability, as they will record everything out of the view of police dash cams, and should go a long way in helping weed out problematic officers.

Although embedding surveillance units throughout the entire city is an expensive, tremendously unwarranted, and possibly unconstitutional step toward the implementation of a full-on surveillance society, the HPD’s move to implement body cams, in contrast, should be lauded.

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