New Orleans crime cameras get a name as groups plan surveillance expansion and residents speak out_lowres

The New Orleans City Council has introduced a resolution to formally name the ubiquitous red-and-blue flashing crime cameras mounted across New Orleans streets "Quality and Neighborhood Safety Cameras."

The resolution follows former Mayor Mitch Landrieu's sweeping public safety plans that called for dozens of cameras in designated "hotspots" and dotting intersections throughout the city. The administration ultimately abandoned a potential network of hundreds of cameras outside bars and restaurants and feeding them into the city's centralized camera monitoring center.

But there remained a parallel surveillance network, one within nonprofit group ProjectNOLA's more than 2,200 cameras outside participating homes and businesses.

[jump] [content-3] Last month, the NOLA Partnership for Public Safety and Peace — a group of business and faith leaders — debuted a plan to expand that network to include 300 cameras outside places of worship as well as outside the homes of congregation members, according to The New Orleans Advocate.

The group began its six-month organizing in November 2017 for a "21st Century Neighborhood Watch," largely driven by "the use of technology and faith-based mentoring programs that help guide young people along a positive, productive life path," according to a group statement. The plan has the support of Mayor LaToya Cantrell's administration and at least two City Council members.

Meanwhile, residents plugged into the New Orleans Police & Justice Foundation's  SafeCam NOLA program, which allows residents to register their cameras with the New Orleans Police Department. A "Platinum" version of the program will allow residents to stream feeds into the Real Time Crime Monitoring Center, the city's Homeland Security nucleus that can share that data with the NOPD, the Louisiana State Police and other "law enforcement partners." including a broad field of federal agencies.

Several groups have slammed these proposals as well as City Hall's efforts to put more neighborhoods under surveillance, and have questioned whether that data is protecting the people it's watching or continuing the disproportionate effects of a troubled criminal justice system.

The New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice, which led recent efforts with its Congress of Day Laborers to speak out against surveillance requirements in Landrieu's plan, warned that "adding more cameras is not the answer to the insecurity that many New Orleanians experience. "

"This city has tried to police and incarcerate its way out of this problem for decades and sweeping up more people in Black and Brown neighborhoods into an out-of-control criminal justice system is a dangerous move in the wrong direction," the group wrote in a statement. "This is not being done for the New Orleanians who live in the communities in question. Public safety for these communities does not look like adding more cameras. It looks like an end to police violence. It looks like providing access to good jobs. Watching us is not the same thing as watching out for us.”

A new group, Stop Watching NOLA, which launches its website June 7, aims to "track the surveillance cameras tracking them."

The website "will allow residents to input the location of surveillance cameras into an interactive map," which also will display the locations of "safety cameras, used to monitor traffic violations, in order to illustrate the pervasiveness of surveillance cameras."

The website also will collect crowd-sourced data (and collect info via the hashtag #StopWatchingNOLA) and release infographics on policing and incarceration.

The City Council's resolution says cameras and tech efforts "go beyond just fighting crime, but to also reduce the risk of terrorist attacks, by upgrading the infrastructure and increasing the responsiveness in areas where mass casualty incidents could take place, New Orleans will be better prepared to prevent and react to acts of terrorism."

"The addition of police officers is not the sole answer to maintaining safety," the resolution says. "In order to sufficiently leverage the patrols, technology must be incorporated into the prevention plan."[content-1][content-2]