Security Cameras Not Helpful in Catching Paris Terrorists

The most important video images to emerge from the terroist attack on Charlie Hebdo headquarters were taken with a bystander’s mobile phone – not with citywide surveillance.

PARIS – The terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine that resulted in the death of 12 individuals has raised many questions as to how the assailants were able to launch such an attack in the middle of downtown Paris. Many are wondering why a network of closed circuit security cameras wasn’t focused on the attackers as they attempted to make their escape in a getaway car.

Although Paris is equipped with many cameras, video surveillance is primarily used for traffic enforcement, not watching for crime, as the presence of cameras is controversial in the city, Defense One reports.

There are several cameras planted along the along the Boulevards Richard Lenoir and de Voltaire, which the attackers likely used as they escaped from Charlie Hebdo headquarters. However, the most important video images to emerge from the scene were taken with a bystander’s mobile phone – not with citywide surveillance.

Police have now issued warrants for Cherif Kouachi, 32, and his brother, 34-year-old Said Kouachi in connection with the attack. Authorities currently have a third suspect, 18-year-old Hamyd Mourad, in custody after he reportedly surrendered to police, according to Defense One.

In 2012, Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë of the Socialist Party announced a plan to increase video surveillance cameras in downtown Paris by more than 1,100. At the time of the announcement, more than 13,000 cameras were installed in the city to enforce traffic.

By adding more cameras, authorities hoped to make public spaces, such as residential areas and public transportation, safer without violating citizens’ civil liberties.

While the majority of French supported adding new cameras to public spaces, members of Green Party opposed the idea, stating that Delanoë was trying to turn Paris into a city like London, which has been described as the most surveilled city in the world. The opposition added that they did not want the city to head into “Big Brother” territory.

Officials in support of Delanoë’s plan denied the plan to turn Paris into a city like London. They noted that London had far too many cameras, too much footage and too few eyes to review it.

In the 11th arrondissement, where Charlie Hebdo’s main offices are located, there were plans for 2.8 cameras for every 10,000 people in 2012, Defense One reports. On the other hand, there is a camera for every 11 people in London. In the U.K., citizens continue to debate on whether the surveillance cameras have actually helped solve crimes.

Still, given the recent attacks, people of Paris may become more welcoming of London-style cameras in the upcoming months.

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