Back in September 2002, we (the Surveillance Camera Players) counted the number of publicly installed surveillance cameras along Fifth Avenue between 42d and 53rd Streets in Manhattan. We chose to map this area (the eastern edge of Times Square) because it is very popular with shoppers and tourists, who are drawn there by such internationally famous attractions as St Patrick's Cathedral and Rockefeller Center. Using nothing but our unaided eyes, we found a total of 22 cameras: 15 installed on the sides of privately owned buildings; 5 installed on city-owned poles; 1 installed on the embassy of a foreign government; and 1 webcam.
In January 2004 (a year-and-a-half later), we returned to this area and counted a second time. Once again using nothing but our "naked eyes," we found that the total number of cameras had dramatically increased (from 22 to 81). There are now 69 cameras installed on privately owned buildings; 5 cameras installed on city-owned poles; 5 cameras in highly elevated positions; 1 camera on an embassy of a foreign government; and 1 webcam. As one can see by comparing these sets of numbers, the rate of increase -- nearly 400 percent -- can almost entirely be attributed to the increase in the number of privately operated cameras.
This fact tells us a lot about the purpose or usefulness of these cameras. They aren't used to combat "crime" or fight "terrorism"; if they were used for these purposes, the New York Police Department would have installed more cameras between September 2002 and January 2004. No: these cameras are installed so that private companies can get discounts on their insurance rates.
By e-mail SCP@notbored.org
By snail mail: SCP c/o NOT BORED! POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998