A couple of weeks ago, after a spike in crime that appears to be replicated nationwide (the number of murders in D.C. is running only slightly less than last year), Mayor Williams declared a crime emergency and introduced legislation that would -- for the first time -- allow for video surveillance and taping in D.C. neighborhoods. The legislation was approved quickly and within a couple of days, I noticed a camera on top of the street signal at the street corner.
My eye was caught by the fact that the camera is so small (about 2 or 3 cubic inches) and apparently was very easy to install. It looks to me like it's wireless (the one line into the camera appears to be the power line). Perhaps it only takes one frame of video per second. Any information about this particular brand/model would be appreciated.
This installation was timely, as lately I have been forming an opinion that I support video surveillance as a marginal measure. In the U.K., police use an enormous number of video surveillance cameras, but local jurisdictions in the U.S. have been much more reticent, despite higher levels of violent crime. For instance, a year or so ago, Mayor Williams made plain that video surveillance cameras would be used only sparingly, no cameras would be used in neighborhoods, and the video wouldn't be stored. But his tune changed this year.
It's true that these video cameras won't stop a crime in progress, but they may help investigators figure out some crimes that already have occurred. Criminals seem to start on small crimes and work themselves up the crime ladder, eventually adding to the stratospheric murder statistics in the city. Inasmuch as the cameras short-circuit this evolution, they are welcome.
I still think the cameras are big brotherish, but the bigger disease in D.C. is that there is a culture of crime supported by local leaders. To me, this is a marker showing that local leaders are cleaning up their acts. However, progress is slow. Marion Barry is still on the council.