Cameras - No One Watching
- Ted and Kathy Ptak were coming home from a late dinner a few days before Christmas when a pickpocket lifted Ted's wallet as they were boarding the CTA's Blue Line at the Jackson Street station.
- Ted, you see, is a veteran Chicago Police officer who was off duty and unarmed on the night in question. As a police officer, he was pretty confident the pickpockets could be caught -- especially with an assist from the new surveillance cameras the CTA has been installing at mass transit stations throughout the city as part of the big Homeland Security push.
Ted figured that would be enough to get somebody to make sure the video was preserved for a follow-up investigation.
It wasn't until a detective did contact him -- three weeks later -- that Ted was told nobody had put a hold on the video and now it was too late. It had been recorded over. Ted couldn't identify his assailants from photo lineups of known pickpockets. Basically, the investigation was at a dead end from the point it started.
And that really ticked off Kathy Ptak, who did something the wives of police officers don't normally do, that is, complain to the press.
In particular, Kathy wondered why we're spending all this money to install these cameras if they aren't being put to proper use.
These cameras are merely flashy devices that the mayor and aldercreatures throw up on poles so that citizens feel that someone is watching over them when the police are out of sight. We know that district teams are required to run POD missions daily, but the cameras are limited by being fixed in place and dope boys merely have to move around a corner to operate with impunity. Then you have these other cameras run by other agencies that have just about no capability to be monitored live and re-record over themselves within a day or less if holds aren't put on tapes. The camera's purpose isn't to record crime - it's to make the camera manufacturers rich.
Career advice to the next ambitious up and coming mayoral Chief of Staff - figure out a program by which you can collect, analyze, process, sort and store all the camera feeds from all the city agencies that run cameras. You're going to need storage capacity in the magnitudes of several terabytes per month. Just credit SCC for the idea.