Cameras are coming to your city soon

With DHS funding, California cities are rapidly adding surveillance cameras to public intersections. With high-res imaging, is remote policing the wave of the future?

Clovis, Calif, boasts 100 high-res surveillance cameras, the San Francisco Chronicle reports, and police and residents are pleased to have Big Brother everywhere.

Extra eyes watch the jail, the schools, a walking trail, an art piece and the wastewater plant. Monitoring screens are in commanders' offices, at dispatch stations and inside each patrol car. Officers even use footage to assign blame in some traffic accidents.

Clovis is home to Pelco, the world's largest supplier of high-res surveillance cams, which is using the city as a laboratory and showpiece. And that's fine with residents.

Surveillance cameras are coming into local policing rapidly and other communities - even liberal San Francisco - are following suit.

Surveillance technology "will become hand-in-glove to traditional policing," Thomas Nestel III, said in a telephone interview. Nestel is a Philadelphia police inspector who studied camera programs for his master's thesis at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey. "It will change policing like vehicles did."

The cameras might make people feel safer, even if less private, but do they really work? There's no evidence, says Nestel.

"This is moving so quickly that it's moving faster than the controls," Nestel said. "Not too many people are evaluating whether it succeeds. Nobody was able to tell me that. The overwhelming response I got was, 'The public loves it. The public thinks it's great.' "

In San Francisco, officials don't monitor the recordings in real-time but, sort of like pro football's videotape review, they review the material after a crime has been reported.

But city's Office of Criminal Justice would like to monitor the cameras but for now that's not the policy.

[OCJ head Allen] Nance would prefer to allow police to control the cameras -- they are now operated by the Emergency Communications Department -- and to monitor them in real time. "Could the cameras be more effective?" Nance asked. "Yes, if we were utilizing them in ways others have found useful."