Faced with a rise in gun violence, Philadelphia voters overwhelmingly endorsed the use of public video surveillance cameras to deter criminals, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The nonbinding ballot question, which led in late unofficial returns by a 4-1 ratio, was being used by city leaders to gauge whether residents were comfortable with the idea of a network of electronic eyes monitoring public activity. Video cameras are used in cities such as Chicago and Baltimore. Officials in those cities say that, as a result, crime has been reduced. Still, the idea of government-run cameras in neighborhoods, at a time of surveillance of citizens by the federal government, has some wondering whether the added security is worth the intrusion. Democratic leaders in one Philadelphia ward urged a no vote.
The push for cameras comes as a police crackdown on violent crime has failed to decrease the high number of shootings and killings. Last week, a police officer was shot to death by a robbery suspect who remains at large. Video surveillance would be an expensive program, with the cost per camera about $20,000. The Police Department, which is strapped for resources and manpower, would run any camera system.