London official Rob McAlister has a message about surveillance: It’s not about the cameras. McAlister, who helped Baltimore set up its network of closed-circuit television cameras, tells the Baltimore Sun that cameras must be incorporated into a broader city management strategy in which intelligence-sharing allows camera operators to be investigators and not night watchmen.
McAlister says Baltimore erected in the middle of problem areas, sending drug dealers scattering and police scrambling to build new intelligence. Meanwhile, pushing dealers to new corners led to an increase in turf battles – effectively stoking more crime that police were less prepared to combat. McAlister dislikes Baltimore’s notorious blinking blue light cameras in the city’s most downtrodden areas, which he describes as high-tech scarecrows. “The absolutely fundamental recommendation that was in 50-point font was, ‘Get rid of the bloody blue lights,’ ” he said. A yet-to-be-published study by the Urban Institute credits cameras with a drop in downtown crime, though it also notes an increase in violent crime just beyond view of the lens.