DC looks to NYPD's camera surveillance program for answers as violent crime surges

D.C.’s Police Chief was in New York City Wednesday to study how the New York Police Department uses its CCTV camera program. 

The visit comes as D.C. leaders continue to grapple with how to lower violent crime in the nation’s capital while violent crime figures in other cities, such as New York, have gone down.

"It was really an opportunity for me to just come and see how they work local, state and federal agencies whenever they have different incidents and different activities that are going on in New York City," said acting police chief Pamela A. Smith.

FOX 5 learned that D.C. police use the cameras that already exist across the city mainly by going back in to collect evidence after starting an investigation.

NYPD, we’re told, have the capabilities to monitor cameras in real-time as soon as something like a carjacking or a shooting occurs. They’re then able to relay real-time information to officers on the ground, while also coordinating with law enforcement partners.

About a month ago, Smith announced that Mayor Muriel Bowser had approved 50 new CCTV cameras, with a plan to double the number of city-wide cameras over the next two years.  


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MPD currently has around 30 permanent CCTV cameras, mostly around the downtown area. Those cameras can be monitored live in the Joint Operations Command Center, which is what usually happens with big events downtown. MPD also has an additional 300 neighborhood cameras. 

That’s small in comparison to NYPD’s over 60,000 CCTV cameras in New York City. 


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NYPD’s surveillance program did not come without concerns. Privacy is the man concern. Another involves the potential for racial bias with facial recognition software.

"When it comes to our city council, I’m sure the mayor along with myself and her team will be certain to address transparency when we deal with our CCTV cameras. I think it’s really important that the public knows why we’re using them and how we’re using them, and we will certainly be transparent in that space," said Smith. 

You can read more on MPD’s current CCTV camera system and policies here