- Associated Press - Friday, October 24, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) - The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri said in a new report that surveillance devices in a part of St. Louis threaten what’s left of people’s privacy.

The organization described the devices installed in the city’s central corridor from the Mississippi River to Forest Park as an “unchecked rise” in surveillance of the public in their two-year study.

The group’s executive director, Jeffrey Mittman, said the surveillance network is maintained by various groups that often don’t coordinate and have few guiding policies. He said what’s more troubling is that there was little public discussion before the web of surveillance was established.

“We are becoming a surveillance society,” Mittman said Thursday.

According to the report, using such technology to track individual movements on a “mass scale” was once considered unlikely. Now, it can be done, because of the widespread use of surveillance cameras. Images can be saved for months or years.

The city of St. Louis is in the middle of expanding its surveillance capacity. Within the past two years, officials have linked four surveillance networks and established a central monitoring center at Soldiers Memorial.

The mayor’s chief of staff, Jeff Rainford, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (https://bit.ly/1vYctF5 ) that the report exaggerates the extent of the city’s surveillance network. He promises city officials will seek public commentary before it’s expanded.

“Surveillance cameras, if they are done correctly and if they are monitored correctly, absolutely will make a neighborhood or a place safer,” Rainford said.

But the report says some studies suggest surveillance cameras have little impact on reducing crime.

Mayor Francis Slay’s office has been in talks with ACLU about surveillance technology, and “when we do start expanding the use of surveillance cameras, we will certainly take their point of view into account,” Rainford said.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com

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