- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 19, 2002

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday said he supports the Metropolitan Police Department's plans to expand its use of surveillance cameras to monitor activities on city streets, in neighborhoods and at public venues.
"We need the cameras for residents who are getting mugged and having their cars broken into especially in the neighborhoods," Mr. Williams said in an interview on WTOP Radio's "Ask the Mayor" call-in show.
Police officials last week said they are seeking to link to the department's command center hundreds of surveillance cameras already in use by different agencies. The department has operated about a dozen cameras near the Mall at federal buildings and monuments since September 11.
The mayor yesterday said Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey is acting under his mandate to use surveillance cameras to videotape minor crimes and moving violations throughout the city.
"I asked Chief Ramsey to look at using technology to enhance security and enforcement in the city," Mr. Williams said.
In addition, Mr. Williams said the city's red-light camera and photo-radar camera programs are showing positive results in enforcing traffic laws. "In July, 31 percent of drivers were exceeding the radar-speed threshold in January, 15 percent," he said.
But Mr. Williams maintained his position that the city's contract with Affiliated Computer Services Inc. of Dallas, the private company that runs the automated traffic-enforcement programs, must be changed to limit the company's financial incentives.
"We have to ensure, the executive and the legislative branches, that the contract is done right," Mr. Williams said. "The negotiation to change the [per-ticket] contract to a [flat-fee] contract is proceeding."
In a December appearance on WTOP's "Ask the Chief" show, Chief Ramsey said the flat-fee contract would be completed by the end of last month. The unsigned contract is in the D.C. Office of the Corporation Counsel.
D.C. Council members Linda W. Cropp and Jack Evans have criticized the automated traffic-enforcement programs in interviews with The Washington Times, with Mr. Evans suggesting the repeal of the photo-radar program.
Mr. Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, questioned the fairness of the program and the financial incentives for the company. "I hate the program," he said, adding that the council could consider legislation that would repeal the camera program.
Mrs. Cropp, council chairman, cited concerns that the city is not receiving enough of the revenue. "We need to see if we're giving the company that runs the system too many incentives to make money off of it," she said.
Mrs. Cropp, at-large Democrat, said she likes the cameras. "I don't want police officers sitting on a corner watching cars go by; I want them in the community."
Other council members have tended to agree more with the chairman.
Last week, police officials said they plan to link surveillance cameras at public schools and subway stations and install cameras at power plants and near water supplies.
U.S. Rep. Constance A. Morella, who heads the House Government Reform subcommittee on the District, said she will hold a hearing on the city's use of surveillance technology.
Mrs. Morella, Maryland Republican, said she is worried the city is leaning toward encroaching on civil liberties.
"These surveillance programs are advancing without the appropriate and necessary debate about their consequences," Mrs. Morella said in a prepared statement last week.
Mayor Williams yesterday said his administration and the council should act according to the wishes of the public. But he said people should be mindful that they already are under constant surveillance.
"People have to know that if you go to the ATM or the airport, you are under surveillance," he said.

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