After a year-long pilot program, Philadelphia will begin installing 250 new police surveillance cameras next month, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Mayor John Street announced the signing of an $8.9 million contract with Unisys Corp. to install the digital video cameras over the next 12 months – with another 250 expected by 2009.
The cameras will be wireless, highly visible to deter criminals, and monitored by a new class of civilian police workers. An Inquirer analysis of police statistics during the pilot project showed that violent crime went down by 37 percent at eight intersections with cameras featuring a bright-blue strobe light announcing their presence. Those cameras were monitored only occasionally; their data could be retrieved if needed. Places with cameras without the blue light, which were monitored by police around the clock at four intersections, showed an increase in crime. Police said that was because they were making additional arrests – 60 over the past year – as a direct result of the cameras. Critics argue that cameras can move crime around but not make it go away.