A car circles a high-rise three times. Someone leaves a backpack in a park. A new Chicago video surveillance system that would recognize such anomalies and alert authorities to take a closer look, the Associated Press reports. Today, the city and IBM Corp. are announcing the initial phase of what officials say could be the most advanced video security network in any U.S. city. “Chicago is really light years ahead of any metropolitan area in the U.S. now,” said Sam Docknevich, who heads video-surveillance consulting for IBM.
Chicago already has thousands of security cameras in use by businesses and police–including some equipped with devices that recognize the sound of a gunshot, turn the cameras toward the source, and place a 911 call. The new system would let cameras analyze images in real time 24 hours a day. IBM would not disclose the network’s cost, but much of it will be paid by the Department of Homeland Security. The cost of previous surveillance efforts has run into the millions of dollars. Just adding devices that allow surveillance cameras to turn toward the sound of gunfire was as much as $10,000 per unit. Jonathan Schachter of Northwestern University said there are no studies that show cameras reduce crime. The idea that placing cameras near “strategic assets” would prevent a terrorist attack is “absurd,” he said.