Several years ago, two New York Police Department detectives knocked on my apartment door and asked if they could have my landlord’s phone number so they could review our building’s surveillance camera footage for an investigation. In the ensuing back-and-forth with my landlord’s son I learned the cameras, which I’d naively assumed could be used to catch a package thief if I ever lost something of value in my building’s vestibule, were not even plugged in.
America’s video surveillance apparatus has been described as being “on par with” China’s, with one installed camera for every 4.6 people in 2019. Under the watchful eyes of New York City’s 15,000-plus lenses, especially, “you are never anonymous,” one AI researcher told Wired. But in actuality, the cameras have been proven to do very little to stop or deter crime — even as they require an enormous sacrifice of privacy from the public.
On Tuesday, for example, in the chaotic aftermath of the Brooklyn subway shooting, with the suspected gunman then-unidentified and still on the lam, Mayor Eric Adams admitted that at this “particular station there appeared to have been some form of malfunction with the camera system,” and the footage, apparently, could not be used. Sources added to CBS2 that “the cameras at the two subway stops on either side of the 36th Street station [where the attack took place] — 45th Street and 25th Street — also had the same connectivity problem,” failing to transmit footage to the NYPD.
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