Stamford Debates Use of Public Cameras in High-Crime Neighborhoods
The city of Stamford, Conn., would like to equip its most dangerous neighborhoods with cameras, but a 1999 ordinance actively limits the use of video surveillance technology to traffic monitoring only. Some city lawmakers at a recent meeting claimed that installing cameras could be misconstrued by the residents of certain neighborhoods as discriminatory and an invasion of privacy.
During a recent debate, members of the Public Safety and Health Committee of the Board of Representatives expressed their concerns regarding the privacy of the residents in these neighborhoods should they decide to support a city ordinance that calls for cameras for traffic monitoring.
According to the Stamford Advocate, Public Safety Director William Callion said, “We want to try and make sure law enforcement and homeland security use as many tools as possible to ensure that Stamford is a safe city.”
Brent Larrabee, Stamford police chief, said that the cameras would act as a deterrent to crime as well as a tool by which police investigators can solve crimes. He assured all who attended that if cameras are installed they would not be used to intrude on the residents’ private lives.
“I’m sensitive to the fact people worry about us spying on them from day to day, but this is the 21st century, and camera surveillance is where we should be going,” he said.
Callion said the city could selectively place cameras near schools and public housing in neighborhoods with the highest crime rates, as well as for homeland security purposes.
A map of the city was on hand that indicated where most of the recent shootings, drug activities and other crimes are taking place. Evidently, the areas indicated are predominately black and Latino as several board members expressed concern that cameras could send the wrong message to residents.
City Rep. Terry Adams, D-3, suggested that use of cameras be restricted to only those hot spots where criminal activities occur. “I don’t care what they are—black, white, Italian, Jewish. These are people and they’re being affected,” he said.
According to the Stamford Advocate, a new policy will be drawn up by city attorneys using the suggestions from the meeting. City council members will then review it at their next meeting.
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