Public safety is imperiled in New Orleans, and it will continue to be when the city connects 70 new surveillance cameras. We can’t police and surveil violence away, and we can’t afford to waste millions more trying to doing so. Cameras and police do not prevent crimes. They are reactionary tools and sometimes cause more harm. Spending scarce resources on surveillance and policing will not reduce violence, but it will entrench racist and costly inequities in our city.

We need to address the root causes of crime. The devastating social breakdown of the pandemic, rising housing costs and stagnant wages, are just some of the conditions driving violence nationwide. Our leaders fail us when, instead of working to alleviate these problems, they double down on a costly and racially biased surveillance network that hasn’t reduced violence but has subjected our neighbors, especially Black and brown residents, to unnecessary and dangerous contacts with police.

Police already receive more of the city’s budget than any other city division, even after an 8% funding cut, lying about using facial recognition, and a consent decree. The New Orleans Police Department claims the camera system saves them $300,000/year by shifting resources away from paid patrols — a measly 0.16% of its $177 million budget. But NOPD has never shown a connection between the cameras and reductions in crime. Money spent on surveillance should instead go toward real solutions to violence.

We urge the city to #fundthepeople by investing in schools, job training, universal basic income, and strategies like the Help Not Handcuffs campaign proposed by the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition (OPPRC). We’ve experienced the same racist tactics for 400 years and know increased policing and surveillance do not prevent violence. Our leaders have a duty to take public safety seriously and imagine intentional solutions to violence that don’t reinforce existing inequities.

LUCY BLUMBERG

THEO THOMPSON

Eye on Surveillance

New Orleans