Chicago To Be Watched by CCTV

Mayor Richard Daley on Thursday announced a major expansion of the city's video surveillance system

Under the city's plan, if someone dialed 911 from a platform on the CTA's Blue Line, for example, "the system automatically will scan all of the cameras to determine if a camera is nearby," Huberman said. "When the system determines there is a camera in the vicinity of the call, it automatically will beam back an image to the call taker."

The call taker, viewing the scene, will be able to provide instructions and assistance to the victim and provide exact information to police that could include a description of suspects who still may be in camera view.

In a separate part of the 911 center, now under construction, operators will view video screens being fed by cameras throughout the city. Software will be used to determine possibly suspicious behavior, sending the video feed to a screen and sounding an audible alert, officials said.

If someone walking down a monitored stairway leaves behind a bag, if a person is spotted in a restricted area such as the grounds of a water filtration plant or the airfield at Midway Airport, the scene automatically will appear on the screen, officials said.

If two people walking from opposite directions suddenly go together in the same direction, the scene will be flagged for a look.

"This may be a totally normal occurrence, but what it allows us to do is bring up this image for the operator [to see] if there is anything suspicious, anything problematic," Huberman said. "Was someone being dragged away from where they were walking? You can imagine the implications at night in alleys and other locations."

"Erratic behavior," such as a person walking around in circles, also will trigger a look by an operator.

The software "is programmable," Huberman said. "We will determine what is the appropriate threshold to set for an alarm to go off."

Asked how he believes citizens will react, Daley replied, "They will love it. They love the cameras now. If you live in those areas [on the West Side] where those drugs and gangbangers are, they love it. This is part and parcel of policing."

The system also will be used to monitor situations unrelated to crime.

For example, Huberman said the system will flag problems on roads in the city where cameras are installed, allowing help to be sent if there is an accident or an obstruction that slows traffic.

Owners of private buildings with security cameras who choose to connect to the system will be charged fees that have not yet been determined, officials said.

In a similar but unrelated development, Cook County is using $34 million in homeland security money to install a system that will give police and other public safety officers in more than 120 municipalities new video surveillance and communications capabilities.

Officers will be able to view scenes captured by government-owned cameras mounted on poles and traffic lights, and in police cars and firetrucks.