We Should at Least Ask the Questions

The Bulletin, "Philadelphia's Family Newspaper", reported today (follow this link but be prepared for a slow page load) that Philadelphia has OKed $8.9 million for 250 video surveillance cameras. That works out to around $35,600 per camera on this system. Now, obviously cameras don't cost more than $35K each, and Philly didn't order any gold-plated PTZ enclosures, so I believe this includes things like the video management system, monitors, control center technologies, video storage devices, wireless transmitters,  cable routing, technician labor, etc. That makes the pricing seem much more reasonable.

Nonetheless, it's still a sizable check to write, and even as someone who covers this industry, I sometimes have to ask myself, what else could you do with $8.9 million? To be honest, when you throw out a number like that, we at least owe it to ourselves to ask questions like: could we have used that money on drug abuse prevention, criminal rehabilitation, and things that might have prevented crimes? And can those expenditures on prevention programs show more return on investment than cameras on the streets?

Aha, but that's the clincher: the departments who run those social services crime prevention programs don't have $8.9M sitting around unaccounted for and possibly matched with homeland security money. And it's probably easier to put out cameras and simply identify "crime or not?" using a 30x pan-tilt-zoom than to figure out and prevent the root problems of vandalism, crime and terrorism. As we know, it's easier to lock someone up for a crime than to teach them to do better.

There's really not a point to this and I don't think I have the best opinion on which is a better option -- spending money on prevention vs. spending money on security technologies. It just is what it is...a curious thought about security and ROI.