Chicago looks to ogle its own with snoop network

Eye on Skokie

Much of the beautiful Chicago architecture will soon be tarnished by unsightly surveillance cameras, if the city's major gets his way.

Mayor Richard Daley yesterday revealed plans to put up at least 250 new snooping cameras around town. These will be linked in to similar systems set up by the police and fire departments, parks management, public school system and others, giving the city more than 2,000 cameras to watch the public. Most of the new cameras will be placed downtown.

"The overall objective of this program is to make the city a safer place for its citizens, communities and assets by continuing to find ways to protect our critical infrastructure while providing a managed environment," Daley said at a news conference.

The mayor quite comically described a scenario where the cameras would aid police responding to emergency calls. The cry for help comes in, the camera operators locate the crime in progress and then feed police detailed visual information about the incident. The mind boggles when contemplating how inefficient this process will likely be.

Daley, of course, also played the terror card.

"This expansion is an integral part of the City's ongoing homeland security strategy that will augment existing security plans," the mayor's office said in a statement. "By saturating critical infrastructure and high-risk areas with surveillance technology, the City can deter criminal activity and immediately identify and respond to emergencies."

Spotting a terrorist carrying an envelope of anthrax would certainly seem more difficult that the mayor lets on.

Chicago plans to fund a new Operations Center that will serve as the monitoring hub for its growing camera network. The city's cameras can pan a full 360 degrees and will run on a a "land-based fiber and high-speed wireless" network.

Stunningly, Chicago believes it will take until the spring of 2006 before completing the first phase of this project, which is expected to cost $5.1m. Thankfully, the Second City will be receiving a federal homeland security grant to help pay for the security "service." God only knows what Attorney General John Ashcroft does with all this video at his disposal.

The suburb of Skokie should perhaps apply to be made part of the snoop network. The town recently vanished after inefficient bloggers were abducted by apathy.

The Chicago camera system will join a host of similar, costly networks - see related stories below - that claim to make citizens safer. The citizens, however, rarely seem to asking for these kinds of Red measures. Well, maybe in Skokie. ®

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