- The Washington Times - Monday, August 1, 2005

D.C. officials are evaluating locations to expand the District’s use of surveillance cameras to improve crime fighting and counterterrorism efforts, a top official said.

Edward D. Reiskin, deputy mayor for public safety and justice, said an assessment of where to place the cameras for a pilot expansion program should be completed by the end of the month.

“We have to figure out where we can best use a limited resource,” Mr. Reiskin said. “We are not going to be able to see everything, even if we could put cameras everywhere. We don’t have the capacity to process that information.”

The District already has 14 surveillance cameras, which are mounted primarily on buildings near the Mall. The cameras are used during special events, emergencies and heightened terrorism alerts.

City officials are considering adding cameras across the city to deter crime, monitor suspicious persons and activities and identify suspects.

“The way we do any kind of deployment, whether it’s of cameras or people, is based on our assessment of the risk and the threat and the vulnerability,” Mr. Reiskin said.

He said officials are considering a variety of technological options, including so-called “smart” cameras that can detect unusual movements in crowds and unattended parcels.

“We will use whatever works, whatever is effective,” Mr. Reiskin said.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams last month said the District should employ a “broader use of cameras” to improve security.

His remarks followed a series of bombings along London’s transit system that killed at least 56 persons and injured 700 on July 7.

Authorities in London, which has a vast network of surveillance cameras, were able to identify from videotapes the bombers and the would-be bombers of a failed, repeat attempt on July 21.

Stephen Block, legislative counsel for the National Capital Area branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, said he doesn’t object to expanding the closed-circuit camera system in Metro stations but questioned the “security value” of the cameras in other areas.

“If the mayor means the expansion of cameras into residential areas — particularly in parks and thoroughfares — then there needs to be a full and public discussion,” Mr. Block said. “That and justification of the cameras’ security value must be addressed even before the civil rights issue.”

In an apparent attempt to ease civil liberty concerns, Mr. Williams said he would like to see the cameras sometimes manned by citizen groups.

“I think that is a distinction that makes a difference,” the Democratic mayor said last month. “I think we should explore that.”

The D.C. Council would need to approve any expansion of the camera program.

Council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, deemed the mayor’s idea “worth looking at.”

In May, Baltimore police began using 43 cameras to monitor and record around-the-clock everything that happens in a 40-square-block area on the West Side, site of light-rail and Amtrak lines, government buildings and cultural attractions.

Chicago has the largest police-camera network in the country, with more than 1,000 in use.

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