Wednesday, February 9, 2011

City of Chicago Response to ACLU Report on Surveillance Cameras

Advisory Message has been issued by the Chicago Police Department - Headquarters.

Wednesday February 9, 2011 11:30 AM CST

City of Chicago Response to ACLU Report on Surveillance Cameras

February 8, 2011 Contact: Roderick Drew OEMC Media Affairs 312/746-9454

City of Chicago Response to ACLU Report on Surveillance Cameras

The Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) today issued a response to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois’ Report on Surveillance Cameras. “The cameras supplement the work of police personnel in the field, and save local taxpayers money by freeing up police resources to protect other areas not covered by surveillance cameras,” said José A. Santiago, OEMC Executive Director.

The City of Chicago’s extensive surveillance camera network operates on the public way. The cameras are not monitored 24 hours a day unless there is an ongoing law enforcement investigation utilizing the cameras in the area.

“The cameras have helped the Chicago Police Department solve over 4,500 crimes since 2006. In addition, the presence of cameras has prevented an untold number of crimes, because their presence sends the message that you will be caught if you commit a crime within sight of a camera,” commented Santiago.

Surveillance cameras are also used to assist first responders by providing a view of a location prior to their arrival at a scene, providing critical information including location of victims, potential threats at the scene to first responders, and information on suspects if the actual crime is recorded.

The cameras are state-of-the art, but they do not have facial recognition capacity or the ability to automatically track a person. Operation Virtual Shield cameras can track large objects such as cars or trucks, but not people.

Further, OEMC and Chicago Police Department officials receive regular community feedback about Police Observation Device (POD) camera locations through CAPS beat meetings. “The element of direct feedback symbolizes the partnership between local law enforcement and the community that make Chicago great,” commented Santiago.

Other important points regarding the surveillance camera network: Operation Virtual Shield cameras were funded by Department of Homeland Security grants at no cost to local taxpayers or impact to the City’s budget. These funds could not be used to hire traditional public safety personnel, such as police officers.

The City has established strict written procedures that govern how the cameras are employed. Everyone is trained on 1st and 4th Amendment rights with respect to individual rights and privacy issues, and camera operators are supervised.

The City can only request access to private camera footage in an emergency, and the OEMC does not have the capability to access or record private camera feeds.

With respect to the red light camera program, the City already only takes pictures/videos of the rear of the vehicle, including its license plate; pictures/videos are only used to issue red-light violations; and all red-light intersections are clearly marked with signs and all locations are listed on the City's web site.

Red light camera images of non-violations are erased after 72 hours. All images are erased after two years per contract. # # #

Chicago Police Department - Headquarters
3510 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60653
Emergency: 9-1-1
Non-emergencies: 312-744-4000

(Executive Summary)

Chicago has our nation’s most “extensive and integrated” network of government video surveillance cameras, according to former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. While the City of Chicago is secretive about the number of cameras (as well as many other critical aspects of its camera program), the City does not dispute the repeated public reports that it has access to 10,000 publicly and privately owned cameras throughout the City. In the downtown district, virtually every segment of the public way is under video surveillance. These technologically sophisticated cameras have the power to automatically identify and track particular persons, and the capacity to magnify and make visible small details and objects at great distances.

Nevertheless, the City seeks to expand and enhance the level of surveillance. Mayor Daley has announced a plan to place a camera “on every corner” of the City. In the words of another top City official, the objective is to “cover one end of the city to the other.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois believes that Chicago does not need a camera on every sidewalk, on every block, in every neighborhood. Rather, our City needs to change course, before we awake to find that we cannot walk into a book store or a doctor’s office free from the government’s watchful eye. We urge the City to order a moratorium on the expansion of the camera system. Then the City should initiate a thorough and open review of this surveillance system, including whether to reduce the number of cameras. Finally, for those cameras that remain, the City should implement new rules to safeguard individual privacy.

The ACLU hopes that this report – the first large-scale, independent analysis of Chicago’s camera system – will contribute to an informed public dialogue about the future of Chicago’s system of surveillance cameras.



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