- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Metropolitan Police Department’s installation of surveillance cameras around the District has proceeded with varying degrees of visibility.

For example, the camera at 14th and Girard streets Northwest is easily identifiable, hanging on a light pole below a silver box bearing a police seal. Several nearby signs at street level announce that the area may be monitored by police.

However, a camera in the 400 block of O Street Northwest is perched atop a three-story D.C. government building with no identifying decal.

Another camera, which was supposed to be placed in the 1500 to 1700 blocks of Benning Road Northeast, actually is a block away.

And a fourth camera — somewhere in the 1200 block of Valley Avenue Southeast — cannot be seen, even though two signs announce its presence.

Installing the cameras is “really a work in progress,” police department spokesman Kevin Morison said. “You may see some inconsistencies among the first four, because it was just a hodgepodge of what we had in stock.”

Officials yesterday set up the fourth of an estimated 50 surveillance cameras whose video-only recordings could be used in criminal investigations. None of the cameras will be monitored in real-time.

The Washington Times first reported Sunday that such cameras have shown limited, if any, success in decreasing violent crime in other U.S. cities.

Under legislation recently enacted by the D.C. Council, the police chief has final say on where to place the cameras. The chief only is required to notify, in writing, the council member and the advisory neighborhood commissioner in whose ward a camera will be located.

In addition, police must publish the location of new cameras in the D.C. Register, issue a press release announcing new locations and note the locations on the department’s Web site (www.mpdc.dc.gov).

Police officials have pledged to mount signs in neighborhoods where cameras are deployed. However, the legislation authorizes the police chief to deploy cameras with no public notice in situations in which the immediate safety of people or property is imperiled.

Last week, officials identified the first four locations for the surveillance cameras.

One was to have been placed in the 1500 to 1700 block of Benning Road Northeast. After The Times inquired yesterday about the camera’s 1800 block location, police officials announced the change.

Mr. Morison said technical problems, such as tree coverage, prevented officials from placing the camera in the original location.

The Benning Road camera is a bell-shaped device protected by a bulletproof casing and suspended from an off-white box with the blue police department seal. Mr. Morison said that camera is one of the first batch of what will be dozens of new cameras that the department is expected to receive.

Cameras at the other three locations are mobile cameras that are ordinarily deployed on a temporary basis during major events, such as protests or heightened security alerts. They are expected to be replaced as additional devices become available.

Police plan to deploy about two dozen cameras by the end of this month and 23 additional cameras next month.

The D.C. Council appropriated $2.3 million to buy and install the cameras as part of the same anti-crime legislation in which they authorized use of the cameras.

The emergency legislation expires in the middle of October. The council is expected to consider permanent legislation authorizing the use of the cameras before the sunset date.

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