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Charlotte: A City Under Constant Surveillance

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(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

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(CBS Charlotte) — Before the Democratic National Convention came to Charlotte in September 2012, the city received a $50 million federal grant that was allocated towards surveillance cameras.

Nearly nine months after the DNC, more than 600 surveillance cameras are still active and are being monitored by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

People who reside or work in Uptown Charlotte are being watched — and law enforcement officials continue to gather information about our whereabouts. In fact, law enforcement has gathered so much information about us that there is potential for abuse.

When a city or town is under constant surveillance, residents have a right to be wary — as any goofy act or “wrong doing” they “commit” can be turned over to the government — and charges or an investigation may follow. On the other hand, if you’re not doing anything “wrong” or suspicious, chances are you don’t have a whole lot to worry about.

However, what if you witnessed a crime on camera — a crime that you didn’t want to report out of fear? What if you walked away, but police found you and wanted to question you about what you witnessed? Even though they had footage of the event unfolding, they may want your “take” on what happened directly before the crime — in the event that you may have witnessed something not caught on camera.

The use of surveillance video doesn’t just catch crimes in progress, it also captures you in the wrong place, at the wrong time — even by no fault of your own. Additionally, the city of Charlotte has a plethora of license plate readers throughout the city, and local authorities have made it known that they are gathering a great deal of information about people who come and go around the city. Furthermore, the information is being stored in their system for around 18 months.

Last night, the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union met with Mark Newbolt, the CMPD attorney. While Newbolt admitted that police have been collecting a great deal of information about residents, it wasn’t abundantly clear what the information is being used for.

While the use of surveillance cameras throughout the city may make some residents feel safer, the reality is surveillance in general doesn’t prevent crimes, but rather the footage enables officers to solve crimes. While patterns in high-crime areas can be studied, and police can increase their presence in certain parts of town where crimes are expected to occur — for the most part, a crime can happen in any part of town, making crime patterns somewhat unpredictable.

Do you feel that surveillance video is a violation of your rights and freedom, or do you feel safer knowing that you are being watched? Feel free to leave us a comment below.

-Nichole Jaworski, CBS Charlotte

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