It was announced today that Trinidad is going to get nearly 30 police cameras as part of a private-funded policing effort. WTOP reports the funding is coming from a project called Safe City and is funded by Target and Sprint Nextel.

Although privately funded, police would be charged with monitoring the cameras. The cameras can be monitored in real time. The city already uses 94 cameras. The increase would make Trinidad the most watched neighborhood in the District. Creepy? We wondered if the cameras are worthless. We also published this terrific take on cameras.

We just talked to At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson, who chairs the Judiciary Committee which oversees the D.C. Police.

“I’m just hearing about it,” Mendelson says. “My primary concern has been cameras are not a good use of public dollars in fighting crime. But I see this is privately funded…. The issue is governments spend millions of dollars putting up these cameras….No crimes are solved that couldn’t have been solved otherwise that’s generally the rap.”

The issue Mendelson sees is whether this privately-funded camera operation will adhere to the city’s regulations.

“If the restrictions apply then many of the civil liberty concerns are addressed for example a police officer monitoring a camera using it to zoom in on an attractive woman or focusing on someone’s bedroom, that’s all prohibited under the regulations,” Mendelson says. “If these cameras are subject to those regulations, the civil liberties concerns are largely mitigated. Then it’s a question of is it a good use of public dollars?”

The District would still have to pay for the officers to watch those cameras.

“Our regulations say the officers aren’t supposed to be monitoring them except in an emergency so I don’t know what the answer is, I don’t know what they’re proposing,” Mendelson says.

The councilmember adds that there is an upcoming hearing in the works on crime fighting. Issues stemming from this new camera initiative may be addressed at the hearing.

*photo by Charles Steck.

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