“I don’t think there is another city in the U.S. that has as an extensive and integrated camera network as Chicago has,” former Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff tells the Associated Press. New York has plenty of cameras, but half of the 4,300 installed along the city’s subways don’t work. Other cities haven’t been able to link networks like Chicago. Baltimore doesn’t integrate school cameras with its emergency system and it can’t immediately send 911 dispatchers video from the camera nearest to a call like Chicago can.
Even London — considered the world’s most closely watched city with a 500,000 cameras — doesn’t incorporate private cameras in its system as Chicago does. Critics call the network a Big Brother invasions of privacy, but most Chicagoans accept them as a fact of life in a city that has always had a powerful local government and police force. Authorities say the system helps emergency responses in ways never before possible. A dispatcher can tell those racing to the scene how big a fire is or what a gunman looks like. If a package is left sitting next to a building for more than a few minutes, a camera can send an alert.