New York City Looks to Install 400 More Cameras

NEW YORK (AP) - Big Brother could get bigger under a new plan by the New York Police Department.

The nation's largest police force has requested funding for about 400 new surveillance cameras to install in busy commercial districts and other areas that have seen spikes in robberies and burglaries, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said Monday.

Police officers already watch live feeds from hundreds of surveillance cameras in city housing projects throughout the five boroughs, where "they are a proven deterrent," Browne said.

The new cameras would not be monitored. Instead, they would record high-quality digital videos that could help identify suspects if a crime occurs. Police also believe the presence of the cameras - when installed in the open and marked with "NYPD" - would deter would-be bandits.

Browne declined to discuss where police plan to put the cameras. He also offered no information on a timetable or the cost of the plan, first reported Monday in the New York Post.

Civil liberties groups have decried the increased use of surveillance cameras by law enforcement, arguing the practice does more to encroach on the privacy of average citizens than to discourage and catch criminals.

Cameras "are no substitute for cops on the street," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. "That's what we need to reduce crime."

Lieberman also cautioned that the videotapes can end up in the wrong hands. She cited a case earlier this year in which a police videotape that captured a suicide at a Bronx housing development later turned up on a pornographic Web site.

"Whenever anything is captured on camera, the danger is that it could be broadcast to the world," Lieberman said.

Browne said law-abiding New Yorkers have nothing to fear.

The cameras "would not in any way violate privacy," he said. "These are locations where there is no expectation of privacy."