In an effort to fight crime in the City of Miami, the Miami Police Department announced that they will be installing hundreds of cameras throughout the city’s neighborhoods. The cameras will feed images to a command center where officers will literally watch the city on over 200 closed-circuit television screens.
It is estimated that with this plan, there will be over 400 cameras watching Miami.
According to the Miami Police Department, the technology implemented enables them to watch up to 2,500 cameras at once.
While some applaud this measure as proactive crime fighting, others regard it as an ominous “Big Brother” style invasion of privacy.
Presumably, the cameras will only be able to observe activity in public areas, it is unknown whether the technology allows officers to look inside peoples’ windows or watch people in their cars.
Surprisingly, the cost of this project is only about $700,000, so it is not a tremendous burden on the taxpayer. Furthermore, the U.S. Government should cover at least half the bill under a federal anti-terrorism fund.
The City of Miami is also implementing ShotSpotters, devices placed throughout the city that can supposedly recognize and pinpoint the location of gunfire.
It should be mentioned that the Miami-Dade Police Department (Miami-Dade County’s sheriff’s department) and the Broward Sheriff’s Office have tried using ShotSpotter but have ceased using the technology since it often mistook other things - cars backfiring, construction noise, and such - for gunfire.
Crime is an issue in the City of Miami, but increased patrols, more jobs, drug-treatment programs, and after-school programs might be a better way to spend $700,000. Since the overwhelming majority of the crimes committed in Miami are drug-related and property-related (burglary and auto theft), if you can treat the problem by addressing the addictions and economic conditions that drive people to commit crimes, I believe that you are creating a more longterm solution, one with greater social effects than simply keeping a creepy government eye on things.
You deal with the root of criminal behavior (poverty and drug-addiction) and you can free up police and prosecutorial resources to deal with violent crime.
Eric Matheny is a criminal defense attorney serving Miami-Dade County and Broward County.