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MPDC Announces Deployment of First Four CCTV Cameras to Help Combat Crime in DC Neighborhoods

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

MPDC Announces Deployment of First Four CCTV Cameras to Help Combat Crime in DC Neighborhoods

Four CCTV cameras now operating; plans call for additional cameras to be installed in DC neighborhoods during August and September.

Update, 8/15/2006:

  • The Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) camera on Benning Road, NE, was activated on Tuesday, August 15. Because of technical and environmental issues, the location of this camera was moved from the originally proposed site of the 1500-1700 blocks of Benning Road, NE, to its actual location in the 1800 block of Benning Road, NE.

The Metropolitan Police Department this week is deploying the first four Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras designed to help combat crime in District of Columbia neighborhoods, Chief of Police Charles H. Ramsey has announced. In addition, the MPDC plans to deploy approximately two dozen CCTV cameras by the end of August and 23 more cameras during September, as authorized under emergency legislation recently signed by Mayor Anthony A. Williams.
 
The first four CCTV cameras are being deployed at the following locations:

  • 1800 block of Benning Road, NE
    [NOTE: The original proposed location for this camera was the 1500-1700 blocks of Benning Road, NE, but had to be moved because of technical and environmental issues.]
  • 14th and Girard Streets, NW
  • 400 block of O Street, NW
  • 1200 block of Valley Avenue, SE 

Camera installation at these four locations is scheduled to begin on Thursday and be completed this week.
 
In selecting locations for CCTV cameras, the Chief of Police is required by law to consider calls for police service, reported crimes and other public safety indicators, as well as recommendations or requests from Advisory Neighborhood Commissions and civic or citizen associations. The Chief also considers public housing developments in Hot Spot areas.
 
The cameras, which focus on public space only, will operate 24 hours a day.  The cameras will be “passively monitored” by the MPDC, meaning that officers generally will not be watching the camera feeds in real time.  Rather, camera images will be recorded and then reviewed by police if there are reports of criminal activity in the area. Generally, video recordings will be maintained by the MPDC for 10 days, unless the Department knows that the recordings contain evidence of criminal activity or an occurrence that may subject the MPDC to civil liability. In these instances, the recordings will be maintained until final disposition of the case. The CCTV cameras are not equipped with audio overhear capabilities.  

“The deployment of CCTV cameras in DC neighborhoods is not a panacea to the serious problems of crime and violence on our streets,” Chief Ramsey said.  “But the cameras do provide us with one additional crime-fighting tool that will help to deter criminal activity in the first place and, if crimes do occur, help us identify, apprehend and convict the offenders.”
 
The use of CCTV cameras to help fight crime in DC neighborhoods is permitted under the Enhanced Crime Prevention and Abatement Emergency Amendment Act of 2006, which the DC Council passed last month. Until now, the MPDC has been authorized to use CCTV cameras only during major events or periods of heightened alert for terrorism, using a network of 19 cameras that are installed primarily in areas of downtown DC. The existing network of “downtown” CCTV cameras is not being activated as part of the current deployment.
 
Most existing policies and procedures governing the MPDC's use of CCTV cameras apply to the new neighborhood-based cameras as well. For example, CCTV will be used only to observe locations that are in public view where the courts have held there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. The cameras will not target or track individuals arbitrarily or based on race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability or other classifications protected by law. In addition, the cameras will not focus on hand bills, flyers or other materials distributed or carried pursuant to the First Amendment.
 
The four cameras being deployed this week are temporary devices. Over the next several weeks, the MPDC will receive 46 new CCTV cameras that are specifically designed for public safety applications. In some cases, those cameras will replace the temporary cameras being deployed this week; the remaining cameras will be installed in high-crime areas, following the criteria for selecting CCTV locations.
 
The neighborhood cameras can be deployed during the 90 days in which the emergency legislation is in effect. Extending their use beyond this time period would require further action by the Council.
 
Additional information about the MPDC's use of Closed Circuit Television can be found on the MPDC website, www.mpdc.dc.gov/cctv.