Surveillance cameras solve crimes, pose privacy questions

An increasing number of residents in the District are using surveillance cameras outside their homes or businesses. (AP)

Jamie Forzato, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Some call it “big brother.” Others say it will help keep our neighborhoods safe.

New questions are being raised about whether police officers are allowed to tap into private security cameras.

Many residents of the District use surveillance cameras outside their homes or businesses. These cameras are often connected to closed-circuit televisions.

DC Councilmember Tommy Wells tells WJLA more crimes will be solved if the police could monitor those live networks.

“If you have a neighborhood that’s being terrorized by burglars, instead of deploying officers in every alley, you just have one split-screen laptop that shows you eight alleys at once,” he says. “The police could tap into cameras that are in businesses and school buildings.”

He will introduce a bill on Tuesday that would allow the police to access private surveillance cameras.

But Arthur Spitzer of the ACLU says it’s a violation of privacy rights. “You could put five cameras on every block and you would solve some more crimes,” he says. “But you would have to balance that against the destruction of privacy. It’s a cliche to say ‘big brother,’ but what else could you call it?”

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