Closed-circuit cameras installed by Metropolitan Police this summer in response to a crime wave will remain in use despite a planned late October removal.
The D.C. Council approved funds for the surveillance in emergency legislation passed this summer to fight back a sudden increase in crime. According to a press release from Mayor Anthony Williams, there was a 21 percent increase in assaults with a deadly weapon in the month of July, with 15 homicides occurring in D.C. that month.
In a presentation before the D.C. Council, MPD Chief Charles Ramsey said the cameras have continued to fight crime. There has been a 64 percent reduction in overall crime in their specific locations. He added that Advisory Neighborhood Commissions have requested that the cameras remain because they make residents feel safer, which encourages people to be active outside their homes.
Police added the 48 cameras to 19 closed-circuit cameras already installed in downtown D.C. The 19 cameras are only turned on during special events, while the 48 additions are on 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The camera’s locations were determined based on how often there were robberies, MPD Communications Director Kevin Morison said.
“If criminals know there is a camera there, they won’t be as likely to deal drugs, steal autos, whatever,” Morison said. “And then if crimes do occur we have a record that we can go back and look at that will hopefully help solve it.”
Two types of traffic cameras accompany the MPD cameras throughout the District. There are cameras mounted on stop lights to help traffic safety and live-feed traffic cameras.
“Citywide, there has been a pretty dramatic reduction in the number of traffic fatalities,” Morison said of the surveillance system. He added that when the traffic-light cameras were installed in 2001, there were 38 speed-related traffic fatalities, whereas last year there were 18.
There are a few live-feed cameras near Foggy Bottom installed by the District Department of Transportation. What makes the traffic cameras different is the fact that anyone can access the live footage on the DDOT Web site.
First-year medical student Aram Jawed said the DDOT cameras shouldn’t be viewable online, despite a protection against viewers seeing license plate numbers.
“I don’t think it’s necessary … I don’t think it should be open to the
public,” he said.
While some may look at the cameras as an invasion of privacy, Brie Vollmer said she sees D.C.’s system as an exception. Vollmer works for the U.S. State Department and walks by one of the live cameras at E Street and Virginia Avenue.
“I feel that . you relinquish all of your privacy when you live in a big city like this,” Vollmer said.
Wayne Powell, who passes a camera on his way to the Metro station every day, said that although he dislikes the camera’s location he can’t do anything about it.
“I’m not happy about it, but it’s not really a big deal.”