Atlanta Citizens To Be Filmed Everywhere They Go

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Atlanta Police Department Marion Ellis watches a live APD traffic stop to observe for public and officer safety on the Digital Integration Video Array (DIVA) at the Joint Video Integration Center in the 911 Communication Center. Jason Getz, jgetz@ajc.com

“The technotronic era involves the gradual appearance of a more controlled society. Such a society would be dominated by an elite, unrestrained by traditional values. Soon it will be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain up-to-date complete files containing even the most personal information about the citizen. These files will be subject to instantaneous retrieve/review by the authorities.”

– Zbigniew Brzezinski, CFR member and founding member of the Trilateral Commission, and National Security Advisor to five presidents in, Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technotronic Era (New York: Viking Press, 1970)

“This is going to grow by leaps and bounds over the years. The goal, of course, is to have the entire city blanketed.”

Atlanta increases surveillance of city

Atlanta Journal-Constitution | Sep 19, 2011

By Jeremiah McWilliams

Plans to put Atlanta’s public spaces under camera surveillance will move forward this week with the opening of a state-of-the-art video monitoring center.

Whether it’s good that Atlanta is joining other big cities in the video surveillance race depends on your comfort level with being watched more often by police.

The downtown “Video Integration Center,” funded by a mix of private donations and public money, has already given Atlanta police links to more than 100 public and private security cameras.

Talks are underway to link up with more cameras at CNN Center, Georgia State University, the Georgia World Congress Center and MARTA, along with cameras in Buckhead.

Officials say hundreds or thousands more private-sector cameras will eventually feed into the center. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution toured the center last week, as live footage of a traffic stop and archived video of a DragonCon parade played on a 15-foot screen. Officers can watch up to 128 views at once.

“This is just the beginning,” said Dave Wilkinson, president of the Atlanta Police Foundation, which helped raise money for the center. “This is going to grow by leaps and bounds over the years. The goal, of course, is to have the entire city blanketed.”

With enough cameras, it might be possible to never lose sight of a suspect after a crime occurs, advocates say. And camera backers say signs warning of constant surveillance help prevent crime, although they acknowledge it is difficult to know how much.

For now, the center has camera coverage on only about one of the city’s 131 square miles.

The planned spread of surveillance — both from installing new cameras and connecting with existing systems at, say, Coca-Cola and Cousins Properties — chills privacy advocates.

“I should hope the public is not okay with it,” said Brett Bittner, executive director of the Libertarian Party of Georgia. “We’re talking about filming every aspect of people’s lives once they step out of the house.”

Cities increasingly use cameras to supplement police forces, often with funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

In the Atlanta region, the spread of cameras has occurred largely through contracts with a Texas-based company called Iron Sky. College Park worked with the firm to expand its public safety surveillance system and used the cameras in a prostitution sting last year. Norcross and Sandy Springs signed up for software that allows police to view any camera in the city from any computer on the cities’ networks, including laptops in patrol cars. Duluth got 18 high-definition cameras.

Lilburn spent $113,000 to set up more cameras on the Greenway Trail, and the south Georgia city of Valdosta set them up in alleys and streets around a high-crime housing project. Atlanta’s Historic Westside Village community set up seven high-resolution pan/tilt/zoom cameras. Cameras have popped up at Atlanta Station and in other areas of Midtown, and are linked to the Video Integration Center.

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