NYC: Big Brother to get bigger

The New York Police Department is requesting funds to install hundreds more video cameras throughout the city to help fight crime and combat terrorism. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly wants to put up some 400 surveillance cameras on high-crime and high-traffic streets to record action to be reviewed later if a crime occurs in the area. Locations for cameras have not yet been finalized but areas likely to be targeted for surveillance include Manhattan’s Herald Square, Times Square and 125th Street in Harlem. There are already 80 such cameras in place, many installed during last summer’s Republican Convention. Additionally, more than 3,000 cameras monitor the city’s Housing Authority projects.

The New York Civil Liberties Union criticized the proposed initiative. “The plan to install 400 surveillance cameras around the city has all the earmarks of Big Brother and puts us even closer to becoming an all-out surveillance society,” NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman told Reuters in a telephone interview. “The only possible use of them is to spy on people and to help gather evidence after the fact.”

Lieberman said New York had a bad record in protecting video evidence, citing a suicide captured on tape by a hidden camera at a housing project that ended up broadcast over a sadomasochistic Web site, and a spy camera mounted on a police helicopter for security at last summer’s Republic National Convention that repeatedly zoomed in on a love tryst in a private roof-top garden. (Reuters, May 30; NYT, May 31)

New York City is a pretty paranoid place these days, as we’ve repeatedly noted.