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Over-surveillance is not the answer

A surveillance camera in New York’s Financial District.
A surveillance camera in New York’s Financial District.Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Video surveillance can be effective in helping to solve some crimes, but it is largely ineffective in deterring violent crimes. Fear-driven calls for more surveillance oversimplify cameras’ role in public safety (“Surveillance cameras a tool for deterrence,” Editorial, April 20).

Surveillance cameras did not prevent the Boston Marathon attack, the London subway bombing, or the attempted bombing of Times Square. Numerous studies show that they do not deter serious or violent crime.

To the extent that video images may help track perpetrators, security cameras may be appropriate at high-profile public places and events. But proposals for suspicionless monitoring of all actions and public movements have the opposite effect, expanding the intelligence haystack without making the needle easier to find. Public safety would be better served by investing in community policing, analysis, and outreach.

Fear must not drive us to abandon core American values of privacy and liberty, particularly when doing so fails to enhance public safety.


Kade Crockford
Technology for Liberty
ACLU of Massachusetts