TOLEDO, OH- The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio blasted a proposal today by the Toledo Police Department to purchase 150 surveillance cameras to monitor residents on city streets and sidewalks. The cost of the proposal is estimated at $1.6 million—a sharp rise from original figures between $800,000 and $1.2 million.
“This idea sounds more like it was lifted out of a George Orwell novel than a city ordinance,” said ACLU of Ohio Northwest Chapter President Steve Miller. ”Freedom is dependent on whether the government does not treat every citizen as a suspect. Toledo residents should be free to go about their daily business without expecting to be videotaped at every corner.”
“Surveillance cameras are a tremendous waste of taxpayer money at a time when the city has cut safety forces patrolling our streets,” added Miller. “If city officials want to prevent crime, they should increase the amount of law enforcement on foot patrol establishing positive relationships with the community. If neighbors trust police, they will be more likely to report suspicious activity and stop crime before it occurs.”
The Toledo Police Department proposed using surveillance cameras after an increase in the murder rate from 24 in 2010 to 36 in 2011. However, these 2011 statistics included a family of four who died from carbon monoxide poisoning, and were still only slightly higher than the 33 murders that occurred in 2009.
In some violent crime areas, Toledo has seen incidents fluctuate based on the size of the police force. In 2009, 75 police officers were laid off, leading to a sharp increase in burglaries. The number went down considerably when officers were rehired in late 2009. According to city statistics the highest paid patrol officers earn $56,453 per year. If city officials invested the funds for surveillance cameras into hiring officers, they could hire well over 20 new patrol officers.
“Community policing works, and is a smart investment for the city of Toledo,” said Miller. “Surveillance cameras may catch crime on film, but will do little to prevent it. Even worse, cameras send a message to the community that everyone is a suspect and is being watched. We need policing programs that build bridges between law enforcement and the community, rather than barriers.”