Several hundred video cameras scattered throughout Pittsburgh’s downtown area and other neighborhoods would eventually be linked in a surveillance network, under a proposal by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The city sent 21 security companies an outline of a plan to cast a video surveillance web. Cameras “will provide more security for the citizens,” said Police Chief Nate Harper. Video evidence can make prosecutions for everything from drunken driving to bank robbery much easier, often prompting guilty pleas, added Zappala. Officials have about $3.4 million available in federal and city funds to get the program going.
Though many cities are expanding camera networks, Pittsburgh’s effort is much more extensive than most, said Melissa Ngo of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “To make it so that no matter what you’re doing, someone is watching — what kind of a society is that?” she asked. Aready there are 70 or more surveillance cameras downtown. “It sounds like Big Brother, but do the society and the times dictate something like that?” asked Don Patterson of the Homewood Renaissance Business Association, which hopes to revive a blighted three-block area by attracting artists and service firms. He said his target clients would probably welcome cameras if they were accompanied by increased policing. “That’s the major thing people tell me: I’m not going anywhere where I fear for my life,” he said.