In More Cities, A Camera On Every Corner, Park And Sidewalk
by	
  STEVE	
  HENN	
  
June	
  20,	
  2013	
  	
  
NPR
Enlarg...
Laura	
  Donohue,	
  a	
  Georgetown	
  University	
  law	
  professor	
  who	
  studies	
  surveillance	
  technology,	
 ...
But	
  Hill	
  doesn't	
  want	
  Elk	
  Grove's	
  officers	
  spending	
  time	
  watching	
  parking	
  lots	
  and	
  ...
Ms.	
  Peterson:	
  Summer	
  School	
  English	
  2013	
  
“In	
  More	
  Cities,	
  A	
  Camera	
  On	
  Every	
  Corner...
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In More Cities, a Camera on Every Corner, Park and Sidewalk NPR Article

  1. 1. In More Cities, A Camera On Every Corner, Park And Sidewalk by  STEVE  HENN   June  20,  2013     NPR Enlarge image Micaela  Torres  and  2-­‐year-­‐old  Jakai  Johnson  swing  underneath  a  surveillance  camera  at  Miwok  Park  in  Elk   Grove,  Calif.  The  city's  police  department  collects  more  than  100  video  feeds  from  across  the  city.   Surveillance  cameras,  and  the  sophisticated  software  packages  that  go  with  them,  have  become   big  business.  Many  small-­‐  and  medium-­‐sized  cities  across  American  are  spending  hundreds  of   thousands  of  dollars  on  cameras  and  software  to  watch  their  residents.   These  systems  use  some  of  the  same  kinds  of  technology  the  New  York  Police  Department  has   deployed  in  lower  Manhattan  to  catch  terrorists.  But  many  cities  are  now  using  the  technology  for   policing  as  mundane  as  preventing  vandalism  at  parks.   A  case  in  point:  Elk  Grove,  Calif.  Elk  Grove  is  a  sleepy  suburb  of  Sacramento  with  a  modest  crime   rate.  It's  bordered  to  the  south  and  west  by  wide-­‐open  ranch  land.  Last  week  I  found  myself  sitting   on  a  swing  in  Miwok  Park,  watching  toddlers,  kids  and  dog  walkers.  It  couldn't  have  been  a   sleepier  scene.   Nonetheless,  I  was  being  watched.  There  was  a  camera  right  above  my  head.   "I  didn't  even  know  that  one  was  there,"  said  Chelsea  Yokkum,  who  was  playing  with  her  son.   Nearby,  a  couple  was  lying  on  a  picnic  blanket,  snuggling.  When  I  walked  up,  interrupting,  they   packed  up  to  go.  They  said  they  knew  there  was  a  camera  above  their  head,  but  that  they  had  no   idea  what  happened  to  the  video  feed.   It  turns  out  it's  sent  directly  to  the  Elk  Grove  Police  Department.   "That  is  kind  of  scary  in  a  sense,"  said  the  man,  who  declined  to  give  his  name.  "Knowing  that   people  are  watching,  no  matter  what."  He's  not  alone.  Many  folks  in  Elk  Grove  who  told  me  they   are  apprehensive  about  these  cameras  didn't  want  to  speak  on  the  record  and  didn't  want  to  be   identified.  
  2. 2. Laura  Donohue,  a  Georgetown  University  law  professor  who  studies  surveillance  technology,  says   that  kind  of  reaction  to  surveillance  is  common.  She  says  proponents  of  cameras  often  argue  that   people  with  nothing  to  hide  have  nothing  to  fear.   The  mindset,  she  says,  is,  "If  you  are  not  willing  to  submit  to  this,  you  must  somehow  be  doing   something  that  is  illegal."   She  adds:  "I  think  this  is  simply  false."   Elk  Grove  has  invested  hundreds  of  thousands  of  dollars  on  surveillance,  and  it  plans  to  spend   more.   Lawrence  Park  playground  burned  to  the  ground  in  April,  the  result  of  a  suspected  arson.  "I'd  love   to  add  a  camera  to  this  park  if  we  can  find  the  budget  for  it,"  says  Bob  Roessler,  the  administrator   of  the  parks  and  recreation  department.   Roessler  says  the  department  has  already  installed  more  than  30  cameras  in  parks  across  the  city   at  a  cost  per  camera  of  roughly  $10,000.  While  the  parks  officials  install,  pay  for  and  maintain   these  cameras,  the  video  is  shipped  directly  to  the  police  department.   Across  town,  Chris  Hill,  IT  manager  for  the  Elk  Grove  Police  Department,  is  the  man  in  charge  of   building  this  network.  When  I  visited,  he  showed  me  how  video  is  accessible  to  dispatchers  and   showed  off  a  rack  of  servers  —  all  devoted  to  collecting  more  than  100  video  feeds  from  all  over   the  city.   Hill  has  built  a  system  that's  flexible  and  scalable.  More  than  100  feeds  are  viewable  and   searchable  from  his  desk.  "You  can  get  camera  feeds,  you  can  make  any  screens  you  want,  you  can   search  any  video,"  he  says.   We  lean  over  and  watch  men  and  women  streaming  in  and  out  of  a  gym  more  than  two  miles   away.  "This  was  a  known  spot  in  the  city  of  Elk  Grove  that  had  a  high  rate  of  car  burglaries,"  Hill   says.   We  watch  a  woman  open  up  her  minivan  door.  Hill  tracks  her  as  she  gets  in  and  drives  out  of  the   lot.  Then  he  zooms  in  to  read  her  license  plate.   It  would  take  a  single  officer  more  than  four  days  to  watch  all  the  video  recorded  by  the  Elk  Grove   police  in  an  hour  —  but  Hill  would  like  to  get  even  more.   "We  actually  have  a  pilot  project  coming  up  —  hopefully  shortly  —  with  a  local  retailer  that  will  be   giving  us  access  to  their  parking  lot  cameras,"  he  says.  Eventually  he'd  also  like  to  work  with  local   banks  to  get  ATM  camera  feeds.  
  3. 3. But  Hill  doesn't  want  Elk  Grove's  officers  spending  time  watching  parking  lots  and  writing  down   plate  numbers.  Instead,  there's  software  that  can  do  that  for  them.  To  see  how,  I  traveled  to  the   offices  of  3VR  in  San  Francisco.  The  company  makes  the  software  that  Elk  Grove  uses  to  sift   through  its  recordings.   "Most  people  don't  understand  that  putting  more  cameras  [up]  doesn't  necessarily  yield  more   information,"  says  Al  Shipp,  3VR's  CEO.  The  company  offers  facial  recognition,  license  plate   readers  and  object-­‐based  searches.  Elk  Grove  doesn't  use  all  of  these  services  yet,  but  it  could  add   new  ones  at  any  time.   "Instead  of  watching  hours,  and  maybe  days,  of  video,  you  can  ask  questions  like,  'Show  me  all  red   cars  going  east,'  "  Shipp  says.  "Or,  'Show  me  all  red  cars  going  east  —  fast.'  Or,  'All  red  cars  going   east,  fast,  with  a  partial  plate  of  A-­‐B.'   "Those  are  search  arguments  you  can  do  with  our  technology  and  literally  sort  through  weeks  of   video  in  a  few  seconds,"  he  says.   Software  like  this  can  alert  the  police  when  someone  enters  a  park  after  dark.  Or  it  can  search  for  a   face.   Diego  Simkin,  a  technician  at  3VR,  shows  me  a  search  for  a  suspect  in  a  possible  bank  fraud.  He   clicks  and,  within  seconds,  there  are  pictures  of  the  same  man  walking  into  multiple  banks  on   different  days  up  on  the  screen.   "I  have  the  ability  to  ...  search  against  multiple  cameras  on  that  system  or  multiple  systems,"   Simkin  says.  3VR's  corporate  clients  are  already  using  these  kinds  of  searches.   These  technologies  are  a  major  draw  for  police  in  Elk  Grove  and  departments  across  the  country.   The  video  analytics  industry  is  growing  by  30  percent  per  year  and  the  software  alone  is  poised  to   become  a  billion-­‐dollar  business.   "The  idea  that  all  of  this  information  will  be  fed  into  one  place,  I  think  is  a  game-­‐changer  in  terms   of  how  we  look  at  our  world,"  says  Donohue.  She  says  that  while  it's  reasonable  to  expect  someone   will  see  you  lying  in  a  public  park,  "you  do  have  a  reasonable  expectation  that  nobody  is  going  to   be  following  you  around  24  hours  a  day,  seven  days  a  week,  everywhere  you  go."                      
  4. 4. Ms.  Peterson:  Summer  School  English  2013   “In  More  Cities,  A  Camera  On  Every  Corner,  Park  And  Sidewalk”   Reading  Comprehension  and  Discussion  Questions     Directions:     • After  reading  “In  More  Cities,  A  Camera  On  Every  Corner,  Park  And  Sidewalk,”  answer   each  of  the  following  questions  to  the  best  of  your  ability.     • Be  sure  to  use  complete  sentences  and  examples  from  the  text  to  support  your  answers   for  full  credit.     • Answer  the  questions  in  your  notebook  and  leave  space  to  add  notes  based  on  our   discussion.     1. What  does  Chris  Hill  wish  to  gain  from  the  public  surveillance  cameras  located  in  Elk   Grove?     2. What  does  Al  Shipp  say  about  surveillance  cameras  and  what  they  offer?  Does  he  say  they   are  beneficial?   3. Is  this  article  pro-­‐public  surveillance  cameras  or  against  them?  How  do  you  know?  Provide   sufficient  evidence.      

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