NEW ORLEANS -- Officials will begin to keep watch on the city from a futuristic-looking command center on the edge of the French Quarter.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu opened the city’s new Real-Time Crime Monitoring Center Tuesday, marking a $5 million investment he and city leaders said will help to keep citizens and visitors safe. Funding for the command center came from the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
While city leaders touted the center, the decision to have unblinking electronic eyes recording activity anywhere at anytime left some citizens uneasy.
The command center, its walls covered with flat screen TV’s that show live surveillance cameras and pictures from license-plate readers around the city, is located next to the NOPD’s 1st Distrcit station at North Rampart and St. Louis streets.
HOPES OF IMPROVED CRIMINAL PROSECUTIONS
“We will see you, we will know who you are, we will be able to apprehend you,” said NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison, who said he hoped the video provided by the center will assist in prosecuting criminals.
Landrieu said the center was inspired by similar ones in Chicago and New York, Landrieu said. “Everything you see here is borrowing best practices (from other cities).”
The center is part of the city’s $40 million safety plan announced in January.
Part of the plan called for installing 80 crime cameras at so-called “hot spots” across the city. Another 250 are set to go up in 2018. Landrieu also urged private businesses and citizens to register their cameras to connect to the center through safecamenola.com
PLANS CALL FOR BARS TO INSTALL CAMERAS
Landrieu said his administration is working with the City Council to write legislation that would require bars to install surveillance cameras that will feed into the center.
Landrieu mentioned the possibility of consequences if businesses don't allow the city security cameras to be placed outside on public streets. He said the cameras are in businesses best interests.
"This is public safety and it really matters both inside and outside. Of course as soon as something happens outside an establishment they call the police, they want them there," Landrieu said. "I can't imagine them not cooperating. It would just make a lot of sense for them to do that and we'll work on what the consequences … in unison with the City Council."
“It’s better and better than I ever imagined,” Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell said of the center and its capabilities. “This is the right step in the right direction at the right time.”
TECHNOLOGY TOO ORWELLIAN, SOME SAY
But some residents said a system that monitors anyone at anytime in certain areas is unsettling and are skeptical they will put a dent in the city’s stubborn crime problem.
"I'm a big fan of George Orwell, and I don't like cameras at all,” said Joe Sollitto. “I don't think they prevent crime or deter crime.”
The center not only monitors and even tracks people in every ward. Advanced technology allows police to zero in on specific suspects between a specific time, city leaders said.
For example, one monitor showed every person who was wearing red in Jackson square Tuesday between 8:30 a.m. and 9 .m. While that might seem like “1984” to some, Landrieu said no one should expect a right to privacy after they leave their house.
"If you're out in public, it's highly likely in this day and age you're going to be recorded by a camera or someone holding a phone," Landrieu said. "That's the new day and age and I feel like people should conduct themselves accordingly."
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