(Nov. 8, 2019) The Ocean City Police Department wants to expand its City Watch surveillance program, and add to its inventory of 250 cameras deployed throughout the resort.
“The City Watch program is a significant force multiplier for the agency,” Lt. Glen McIntyre said. “Technologically speaking, personnel who are monitoring our cameras are actively patrolling dozens of public places concurrently.”
The expansion effort was brought up last Tuesday, Oct. 29, at the Strategic Update Planning meeting held in the Ocean City convention center on 40th Street.
At the time, Police Chief Ross Buzzuro said he wanted to expand the program to target hot spot crime areas.
“We are currently using crime analytics to determine the best locations for future camera deployments,” McIntyre said. “Once identified, we will be working with other city departments and contractors to develop a strategic plan for installation.”
The lieutenant argued that without the surveillance cameras, the police department would need to deploy an inordinate number of officers in order to replicate the same scope of surveillance.
“The cameras provide us with a truly robust solution that allows us to see and evaluate a problem in real time, develop a rapid response strategy, and dispatch only those resources necessary to resolve the problem,” he said.
The implementation of citywide surveillance cameras has been a growing trend across the country.
According to a study conducted by consumer information website Comparitech, the United States is one of the most bugged countries in the world, with Atlanta, Chicago, Washington D.C., San Francisco, San Diego and Boston making the site’s top 50 list.
While proponents argue that citywide surveillance is beneficial in crime prevention and analysis, opponents say it’s an infringement of privacy rights and may not actually be that effective as a public safety tool.
“The real reason cameras are usually deployed is to reduce much pettier crimes, but it has not even been demonstrated that they can do that,” an American Civil Liberties Union article states. “In Britain, where cameras have been extensively deployed in public places, sociologists studying the issue have found that they have not reduced crime.”
In addition, the Civil Liberties Union argues that surveillance systems are susceptible to abuse, such as misuse of data, discriminatory targeting and even voyeurism.
Furthermore, because surveillance technology has evolved so quickly, there is a lack of checks and balances to prevent said abuse, and there are currently no general, legally enforceable rules that limit privacy invasions.
Nonetheless, McIntyre said the police department has received few complaints in regards to its citywide surveillance program.
“We’ve not seen or heard much from critics, which may speak volumes about the way we are utilizing the technology, McIntyre said. “It’s an implausible task to be everywhere at once, and like every other industry, law enforcement is being asked to do more, with less. Fortunately, the camera system is a practical and affordable asset that requires little manpower to achieve big results.”
Buzzuro said further details in regards to expansion would be discussed at a future police commission meeting.