D.C. Government Plans Centralize Security Monitoring For City
The D.C. government plans to begin centralized monitoring of about 5,000 security cameras it maintains throughout the city, giving emergency-management officials a broad look into schools, public housing and other sites.
According to The Washington Post, the city says the system will save money and provide 24-hour monitoring, rather than the sporadic attention in the current patchwork of camera systems. But civil liberties advocates expressed alarm.
“Having it all together in one place brings us one step closer to the kind of scary movie scenario where they can track somebody moving across the city,” says Art Spitzer, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union for the Washington area.
D.C. police will continue to watch their 73 surveillance cameras in high-crime neighborhoods, says Darrell Darnell, head of the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency. But his agency will set up a center to monitor an array of other closed-circuit TV cameras, including nearly 3,500 inside D.C. public schools, 131 used by the Department of Transportation and 720 used by the D.C. Housing Authority.
City Administrator Dan Tangherlini told the Washington Post that the concept of the single network was developed in meetings in which officials determined that the city could save money through consolidation.
Not including the police department, the city is spending an estimated $1.7 million to operate and monitor its cameras this year, but that could be cut in half beginning next year, city officials say. Also, more efficient monitoring of the cameras could lead to additional savings through such steps as removing security guards from locations that are monitored by camera, Tangherlini says.
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) said in a statement that the new system “will provide decision-makers with a more efficient and effective source of video information, both for day-to-day monitoring as well as during emergencies.”
Darnell’s office, which houses a 24-hour emergency facility, will host the camera-monitoring center. The new Video Interoperability for Public Safety program will cost nearly $10 million to set up, with federal grants expected to pay about $9 million, he said.