In London, where virtually everything that happens on the streets is captured by surveillance cameras, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Even before the cameras helped crack the cases of the July transit bombings, the city was setting a new surveillance standard for these high-security times. London began beefing up its system more than a decade ago in response to Irish Republican Army bombings; Londoners are ranked as the most watched citizens on Earth.
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley announced last year that his city would follow London’s example by installing hundreds of cameras to monitor streets, especially in high-crime areas. Other U.S. cities from Baltimore to Los Angeles are stepping up camera surveillance, often with Homeland Security funds. Beyond the 16 cameras Minneapolis police installed at 12 intersections to catch red-light runners, the city used funding from Target Corp. and other merchants to set up 29 cameras downtown. More powerful than the traffic cameras, they can swivel and zoom to let police watch specific action on the streets. London has at least half a million cameras in public and private networks. More than 6,000 are in the subway system. Critics dispute their effectiveness, but authorities say they have helped solve and interrupt day-to-day crimes. The system has critics in the land that gave rise to George Orwell’s chilling novel “1984,” in which cameras in every home enabled Big Brother’s constant snooping. One opposition group calls on its website for British citizens to attack the cameras with paint guns, laser pointers, and glue.