If you live in a Chicago neighborhood that hosts a blue-light camera on any given street corner, you should feel a bit safer, right? The lights are the city’s way of saying your neighborhood needs a babysitter, but the questions remains if these cameras actually work.
A study released by the Urban Institute says that the surveillance cameras offer mixed results with crime being lowered in some areas while crime stays consistent in other areas where the cameras are on display.
In Humboldt Park, crime decreased more than 12 percent from 2001 to 2006 where there are 53 cameras per square mile. Yet over the same period in West Garfield Park, crime didn’t fall at all. One possibility for the crime remaining consistent is that there are only 36 cameras per square mile in the West Garfield Park area.
“The difference in camera saturation could have an impact on the degree to which cameras are able to catch crimes in progress and thus officers to intervene, make arrests and deter other potential offenders,” the study said in a report by the Chicago Sun-Times.
A concern with the surveillance cameras is how valuable they really are to police and prosecutors. With video quality often being poor and the fact that more evidence is often needed to to bring a conviction, many do not see the blue-light cameras as making much of a dent in fighting crime.
And there is another reason that has been kept on the down-low concerning why these surveillance cameras are not quite living up to expectations. The problem is two-fold.
On one hand, many gangs have bribed the cameras to look the other way, offering promises of sturdier foundations to help the electronics deal with the harsh Chicago weather especially the winters. Police who review the footage captured by the cameras knew something was amiss when more than six cameras in proximity to each other in the West Garfield Park area all failed to capture crimes happening right in plain view over a period of a few months. Officers suspicions were furthered when they noticed that the impotent eyes in the sky were adorned with fur scarves and DVD’s of robot orgies to keep the cameras occupied were taped to the cameras.
The other more troubling problem is that many blue-light cameras have been found to be hooked on drugs, notably crack-cocaine and heroin. The Chicago Police has done it’s best to keep the story outside the reach of the press, but these blue-light cameras have been showing up on street corners they are supposed to be surveilling with the hope of getting a quick fix. In fact, on numerous occasions, the cameras have been the perps. In a few instances, the surveillance cameras have turned towards the windows of the nearby buildings, filming sex tapes of residents and threatening to sell the videos online in exchange for drug money.
“I knew something was not right when the camera was shaking like a junkie in detox every time I drove by,” said a Chicago Police officer who asked to remain anonymous. “I know that more than a dozen of our cameras are currently in the methadone program.”
With blue-light cameras being as unreliable as a blind man’s critique of the Art Institute, it seems that yet another crime-deterrent has been able to be bribed and controlled by the city’s crime networks. This news only adds more disbelief as the police department struggles to cut at least $190 million from the budget while at the same time putting more officer’s on the street. It seems the Chicago Police Department is in quite the bind as they need to cut money and pay for more manpower, which historically does not go hand in hand. The newest plan by Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy is to try and stop the bleeding by taking the opposite approach of the CPS. Instead of longer days, the Chicago Police Department is serious about a shorter day with services being offered between the hours of 7a.m. and 5p.m.