An Eye On CRIME

Using public surveillance cameras to capture homicides and other crimes.


"The cameras themselves are not all that expensive," Gaittens explains. "But when you talk about running fiber lines, the costs go up. Fiber is expensive — $10 a foot."

The city faces installing several hundred miles of fiber and the question remains where they are going to hang it. Once the committee reviews vendor packages, they plan to select a system for Philadelphia.

"We sent individuals to Baltimore and Wilmington to look at their surveillance camera programs and had people visit from Chicago to give presentations on their programs," Gaittens says. "We visited Temple, Drexel and the University of Pennsylvania and looked at their surveillance programs. These universities in the city have had cameras for many years."

Gaittens notes the department has already seen some initial success from its pilot cameras. The police have made a dozen arrests based on what the people monitoring the cameras have observed. People tend to forget the cameras are there — they get desensitized to them, Gaitten points out. After a couple days, the cameras blend into the background and then people do what they do normally. Also, many street criminals don't read the signs noting the cameras are there.

But even with such success, Gaitten warns it's no panacea.

"A camera will never replace a cop," he says. "Cameras are an effective tool, but you'll still need someone to monitor the camera and you'll still need the police officer in the car to respond."

Paul Davis is a Philadelphia-based writer who covers crime and terrorism. He can be reached at daviswrite@aol.com

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