Two Newark cops watched a shoot-out erupt in broad daylight between two suspected drug dealers in the middle of an apartment complex. Business Week reports that the cops saw the violence from the city’s new communications command center, which collects live video feeds from 111 surveillance cameras across the crime-ridden city. Because of the cameras, police were able to dispatch a team to the crime scene 90 seconds before the first 911 calls. The gunman who crawled into his apartment was arrested on the spot.
Newark is investing in a range of tools, everything from mundane PCs to more novel technologies like a citywide broadband wireless network that will let cops fill out police reports from squad cars instead of schlepping back to the station house. By late fall, Newark expects to complete the deployment of an audio sensor system to pinpoint gunshot locations that cameras fail to catch. Technology experts say Newark is the first metropolis to combine an array of technologies on a large scale. “I haven’t seen a city with this mix of technology all in one place,” says Kevin Kilgore of Let’s Think Wireless, a New York company that has built wireless networks for several hundred cities. Critics argue that such surveillance is susceptible to abuse, can have a chilling effect on public life, and hasn’t been proved to reduce crime. “The costs are high, and the benefits in terms of law enforcement are low,” says Deborah Jacobs of the American Civil Liberties Union.