Vandals and litterbugs targeting Baltimore neighborhoods will soon hear from an unlikely source – the city’s newest breed of surveillance camera, says the Baltimore Sun. Five talking cameras – armed with motion detectors, a bright flash, and a recorded warning – were approved yesterday as part of an effort to curb quality-of-life crimes, especially illegal dumping. The cameras, which cost about $5,000 apiece, are the latest in surveillance technology that cities are using to deter everything from red-light runners to drug dealers. They will add to an expansive network of monitoring equipment in Baltimore.
Officials might record any message they like, but the city is sticking to a default recording made at the factory. “Stop,” the solar-powered cameras will scold upon sensing motion. “This is a restricted area. It is illegal to dump trash or spray graffiti here. We have just taken your photograph. We will use this photograph to prosecute you. Leave the area now.” Surveillance in other places has drawn criticism from privacy advocates who argue that cities should hire more police officers rather than shell out for cameras. “It seems to be an atmosphere of, ‘We will watch you no matter what, even if you’re innocent,'” said Melissa Ngo of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington.