- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 20, 2019

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Two civil rights groups have gone to court saying a city official in New Orleans won’t provide a map showing the location of 400 clearly marked and brightly lit crime surveillance cameras.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana and the Southern Poverty Law Center announced the legal action Wednesday. They say the lawsuit was filed in state court on behalf of a public defender, Laura Bixby.

The lawsuit says a map detailing the camera locations could be useful to Bixby because video from the cameras, often touted as an aid to police and prosecutors in catching and prosecuting criminals, could also be useful in exonerating defendants. “A map of the cameras is necessary to provide her clients an effective and constitutional level of defense,” the lawsuit states.

The suit says the custodian of records for New Orleans’ homeland security department won’t provide a map of camera locations even though the cameras aren’t hidden. The cameras are marked with city insignia and bright, flashing red and blue lights.

City officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. According to the lawsuit, the city attorney’s office said records regarding the location of the cameras are exempt from disclosure under Louisiana’s public records law because they involve investigative equipment and security information.

The cameras are scattered throughout the city’s eight police districts and they provide constant video feeds to the city’s Real Time Crime Center. They are clearly marked with red and blue lights and the New Orleans Police Department’s logo. Officials have said the clear marking and lights were included to deter would-be criminals.

The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring the custodian of the records to either turn them over or show a legal cause why he should not have to. It also seeks attorneys’ fees and unspecified damages and penalties for the city’s failure to turn over the requested records.

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