In a somewhat frightening attempt to create a comprehensive surveillance network across the county, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have said that they want access to private businesses' security cameras which would allow them to actively monitor the happenings at malls, gas stations and banks.
Though the CMPD has not yet said how many cameras this will mean in total, the move represents a major change for the department and a huge expansion in the scope of its surveillance capabilities. CMPD only started using cameras 12 years ago and the latest move would dramatically increase the number of locations under watch by the police department. Police currently have access to about 650 cameras. Though that seems like a lot, the department points out that Chicago, which is four times bigger than Charlotte, has access to 10,000 cameras.
Already, the police have access to some private cameras in the Charlotte area. These include the Time Warner Cable Arena, the Bank of America stadium as well as all the major bank buildings. By expanding the reach of their camera system, the police believe this will allow them catch many more criminals and prevent crime from taking place.
However, the police fail to acknowledge any of the downsides, including that the cameras could collect more images of people who have done nothing wrong. Moreover, this video of innocent people will then be stored on police servers for weeks or months in the future, providing a database for the department to should they have an interest.
As the police chief made the announcement about the private camera systems, he also went into detail about the department's advanced use of technology, much of which was paid for with federal grants to help increase security during this September's Democratic National Convention. The array of high-tech toys includes additional cameras, license plate readers and even a gunshot detection system known as ShotSpotter.
The department said they would be rolling out an expansion of the use of the ShotSpotter system after identifying six areas that they believe will benefit from the technology. Currently the system is only in a two-mile part of central Charlotte, an area of relatively low crime. The six new areas have not been announced yet, but the department is moving forward with its plan.
The police also said that they intend to continue using their license plate scanners and will put the information into a searchable database. CMPD currently has 100 such cameras and has investigators devoted to scanning the data to find those who have broken the law.
CMPD has said the technology has allowed them to enter the 21st century with sophisticated crime fighting tools. At the same time, leaders claim the new technology won't result in overly intrusive government, a claim rejected by some privacy advocates who say the matter should be decided on by residents of the city. They argue that surveillance increased during the DNC should not automatically remain in place if the reason for its existence has passed.
Arnold & Smith, PLLC is a Charlotte based criminal defense and civil litigation law firm servicing Charlotte and the surrounding area. If you or someone you know need legal assistance, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (855) 370-2828.
Source: "Charlotte-Mecklenburg police want to monitor private cameras," by Cleve Wootson, published at NewsObserver.com.
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