Spying on ourselves

Cosmo Garvin wrote about this issue in a Bites column, “Surveillance city,” on May 29.

The plan to launch a Sacramento public-surveillance program—complete with 32 fixed cameras mounted in high-crime neighborhoods and at Regional Transit stations around town—seems to be moving ever forward. Yes, the tag team of Mayor Kevin Johnson and Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel still want to use about $600,000 in Homeland Security money to buy the sophisticated cameras.

We wish we were sure this intrusion on privacy was going to be worth it. Though police disagree, the American Civil Liberties Union has been claiming for years that surveillance cameras don’t prevent crime. Interestingly, an internal police study in London—a city with 1 million-plus cameras—just last week reported that the cameras rarely help catch criminals.

The ACLU has been asking for more detailed information from the mayor’s office on the surveillance-camera program, but so far has been met with silence.

Why won’t the mayor’s office make more information public? For that matter, why wasn’t there a public hearing on whether Sacramento citizens wanted to submit themselves to this level of surveillance in the early stages of this proposal?

Inquiring private citizens want to know.