Landrieu first described his public safety initiative after a shooting on Bourbon Street in November 2016 left one dead and nine injured. Paid for with money from the city and the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, the plan focuses heavily on increasing surveillance, both by adding city-owned cameras and by accessing feeds from cameras owned by private individuals and businesses, though the latter policy still needs City Council approval.You may have concerns about abuse of state power, threats to privacy, civil liberties, etc. Maybe some of those concerns are legitimate. Maybe some aren't as bad as you might think at first. There's a lot to discuss. Maybe you thought politics was the process by which you raised this discussion. But that's not how it works.
Officials cut the ribbon on the central hub for monitoring all those feeds last week, and Landrieu responded to questions about the potential privacy implications.
"If you’re out in public, it is highly likely in this day and age you’re going to be filmed by some camera or somebody holding a phone," he said. "I just think that’s the new day and age that we’re in, and people should conduct themselves accordingly.”
Politics is, in fact, the process by which elite class individuals like Mitch Landrieu instruct you on the things you have to get used to now. We call these, "best practices." A best practice, loosely defined, is the lowest common denominator derived from the set of things everybody is already doing. A best practice is self-legitimizing. If it happens to be a horror, it is your responsibility to adjust. We call that resilience.
Maybe the Independent Police Monitor disagrees but it hardly matters. At least they tried.
In a public letter issued Wednesday, the Office of Independent Police Monitor also questioned whether the $40 million plan, which the mayor first unveiled almost a year ago, will have a substantial impact on crime.The IPM's letter didn't just raise these questions, it also examined some of these "best practices" in other cites where similar surveillance systems are installed. It cites evidence of abuse in Great Britain where, unfortunately, only Benny Hill was available to operate the cameras.
“As with any law enforcement data system housing private information about citizens, there is a potential for mismanagement, poor information security, public record law compliance challenges and user abuse,” the letter warned.
It added that while surveillance capabilities are being beefed up, the plan does not "earmark resources or personnel to monitor the implementation of the plan.”
A review of 592 hours of government-run CCTV monitoring system footage in London found that 10% of surveillance of women lasted more than one minute, and 15% of surveillance of women for shorter periods was voyeuristic. In 2007, a police supervisor in Worcester, England was suspended after improperly manipulating surveillance cameras to focus in on women’s breasts and buttocks.It also lists instances of stalking, assault, and evidence tampering by police using surveillance systems in New York, California, and Ohio. It points out the racism inherent in the way the systems are deployed. Here is a congressional study referenced in the letter which found that even the cameras themselves are racist.
According to a 2017 study from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, other technologies implied by the plan but not explicitly mentioned, such as facial recognition cameras, have been shown to disproportionately misidentify black people as suspects.There are other issues raised. How long will data be retained? Is it available to third parties? Does it make sense to spend public money on this stuff when there are other budgetary priorities? Most importantly, there's no clear evidence the cameras reduce crime. The letter also cites multiple studies to make this point.
A 2008 study by the University of Southern California (“USC”) found that Los Angeles’ camera network made no statistically-significant impact on reducing violent crime, property crime, or quality of life crime, such as prostitution or public drunkenness. Similarly, a 2009 study by the University of California at Berkeley found that San Francisco’s cameras made no statistically significant impact on reducing violent crime, drug crime, or quality of life crime, while only making some impact on reducing property crime. A 2005 review of 13 studies in England found no statistically-significant impact on reducing violent crime, and a statistically-significant reduction in property crime in only two of the thirteen locations studied, one of which was a parking lot. A 2008 review by USC of 44 studies in the United States and abroad concluded that none of the domestic studies found a statistically-significant impact on reducing crime, and that any impact found in foreign studies was limited to property crime.So the "best practices" are actually quite problematic and behaviors aren't changing despite the fact that everybody is on camera now. "People should conduct themselves accordingly," says Mitch to all that. But, even if we accept this as a desirable outcome, it still isn't happening no matter how many times he asserts that it should.
Waxing Mayor Cantrell just finished up a campaign where she hammered hard on the theme of "listening" to people. Will she be more likely to take legitimate complaints about surveillance seriously? She isn't starting from a very encouraging position.
Landrieu said his administration is working with the City Council to write legislation that would require bars to install surveillance cameras that will feed into the center.Oh dear.
Landrieu mentioned the possibility of consequences if businesses don't allow the city security cameras to be placed outside on public streets. He said the cameras are in businesses best interests.
"This is public safety and it really matters both inside and outside. Of course as soon as something happens outside an establishment they call the police, they want them there," Landrieu said. "I can't imagine them not cooperating. It would just make a lot of sense for them to do that and we'll work on what the consequences … in unison with the City Council."
“It’s better and better than I ever imagined,” Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell said of the center and its capabilities. “This is the right step in the right direction at the right time.”