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DHS run police departments expanding surveillance nationwide

Published: December 9, 2014
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If you feel like someone is watching you, you’re probably right.

In the latest manifestation of electronic ogling, police in dozens of cities large and small are enlisting citizens and businesses to register the locations of their private security cameras for possible use in crime investigations.

DHS run police departments are use mapping technology to match registered cameras to crime scenes, then ask camera owners for access to possible video evidence. Unlike the closed-circuit surveillance systems used in many big cities, the registry cameras generally are not networked, so police cannot monitor a live feed of the images.

There's the tell, registry cameras are generally not networked, don't believe it it's a lie. 

It's much worse than you imagine, click here to view the 'United States of Surveillance' parts 1 - 6.

DHS wants surveillance cameras in every neighborhood, click here & here to read more.

DHS even wants access to surveillance cameras in your homes!

About 100 U.S. cities now have the registries, estimates Stan Lewis, editor of Miami-based SecurityHive, which covers the security industry. More than a dozen cities in Florida, California, the Northeast and the Midwest have joined the trend in recent months.

Indiana is forcing businesses to purchase three surveillance cameras each which allow police to spy on citizens.

Chicago is the national leader with an estimated 25,000 cameras—many of them privately owned—connected through a vast fiber-optic network. Its Operation Virtual Shield was launched in 2006 in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security, which has paid most of the $220 million cost.

New York has some 5,000 networked cameras, including a mix of city-owned devices and those operated by private “stakeholders” such as Wall Street firms as part of the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative, begun in 2008 and expanded to Midtown in 2009.

New Orleans has begun expanding citywide a camera registry program that was begun in October 2012 in the French Quarter, Marigny and Central Business District. Its database of 1,300 registered cameras is expected to grow significantly.

Boston police used facial recognition software to identify innocent citizens attending a music festival.

So far, the registries are voluntary: Citizens choose whether or not to join. But a proposal to make registry enrollment mandatory in New Jersey has generated controversy.

New Jersey Assemblyman Ralph Caputo introduced controversial legislation a month ago that would make it easier for municipalities to create registries—but requires security-cam owners to register them with police. Those who don’t would be fined $100.

“Making registry mandatory really is pushing the envelope, and I think you’re seeing pushback on that idea,” says Lewis, the SecurityHive editor.

“We don’t have any problem with voluntary registries,” says Jay Stanley, a privacy and technology policy analyst with the ACLU. “But we have a big problem when you make them mandatory. That would smack of the Soviet Union, which forced people to register devices like photocopy machines.”

And as with many new digital surveillance innovations, the registries leave unresolved a number of now-familiar concerns over privacy and data retention as technology continues to outpace policy, regulation and legislation.

The registry growth is a small niche in the booming security industry sectors of smart surveillance and video analytics, a $13.5 billion global market in 2012 that is predicted to triple by 2020.

And the registry trend is driven in part by the proliferation of cheap security cameras. High-definition, 2.1 megapixel camera systems now sell for less than $100, and low-def versions go for as little as $25.

HD cameras produce vast quantities of data. The highest quality images can eat up a full terabyte of storage in barely a week. Some owners use Cloud storage since nearly all units have storage limits. Generally, police ask camera owners to retain data for at least a month.

“We’re almost becoming a society that expects cameras to be watching us,” says Lewis of SecurityHive.

“If it really sinks in to people that they may be watched by police anywhere they go, it will have a chilling effect on how we use public spaces,” says the ACLU’s Stanley. “But I don’t think it’s inevitable that we face a future of mass surveillance everywhere and at all times. Sometimes people tell me, ‘Oh, Jay, you can’t stop technology.’ But we as a society can shape how it’s deployed.”

Here are a few other recent surveillance innovations, both high- and low-tech:

  • Skywatch mobile surveillance towers, used by New York City police during the 2011 Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, are now showing up across the country. Hydraulics elevate a command cabin 25 feet. Manufactured by Oregon-based FLIR Systems, the devices cost about $125,000, though many are purchased with Homeland Security grants or as discounted military surplus. Among other places, they have been used recently during mass gatherings and in mall parking lots in Clearwater, Fla., Myrtle Beach, S.C., Norman, Okla., and in the Texas cities of Arlington and Garland and at Baylor University in Waco.
  • PublicEye, a real-time data-fusion platform for smart phones and tablets, is being used by several police and fire departments in the Boston area. Manufactured by Zco of Nashua, N.H., the software feeds various information streams to an officer’s phone at the scene of an emergency—allowing the officer, for example, to monitor interior security camera feeds during a school shooting.
  • Persistent Surveillance Systems of Dayton, Ohio, is marketing “wide area motion imagery” systems that use airplane-mounted high-definition cameras to give police a record of every movement on the ground over a 25-square-mile area for up to six hours. 
  • Knightscope of Silicon Valley has created K2, a mobile robot security guard that stands 5 feet tall, weighs 300 pounds, and is equipped with cameras, license plate

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