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24-hour camera surveillance in city is part of bigger plan

Financed by homeland security grants, new network aimed at fighting terrorists as much as drug dealers

By Doug Donovan

Sun Staff

Originally published June 10, 2004

From the Inner Harbor to the Bay Bridge, local and state homeland security authorities are beginning to build a regional network of 24-hour surveillance cameras that will first go live this summer in Baltimore.

The closed-circuit video surveillance system of public spaces will begin in the Inner Harbor by summer's end, and a $2 million federal grant accepted by the city yesterday will expand the cameras into downtown's west side by early November.

"We're trying to build a regional network of cameras," said Dennis R. Schrader, director of homeland security for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

What of privacy concerns raised by groups opposed to cameras constantly monitored by retired police officers or college students?

"We're at war," Schrader said.

The network is part of a comprehensive strategy in the Baltimore area to spend $25 million in homeland security grants this year and next to improve regional cooperation on terrorism concerns. The idea stemmed from a regional group of leaders that is jointly acquiring decontamination equipment and backups for 911 and power systems.

The network of cameras will be placed in downtown's west side because it has light rail and Amtrak lines, federal and state government buildings, and many cultural institutions.

The city wants companies capable of building the system to submit bids by the end of this month. "The purpose of the ... system is to provide for the homeland defense ... while also reducing crime and public disorder," reads the request for proposals. "Cameras will only observe and record that which a police officer or private citizen could legally see."

At a surveillance center in the Atrium Building on Howard Street, 13 to 15 retired police officers or criminal justice college students will monitor images, said Elliot Schlanger, Baltimore's chief information officer.

The system will be owned by the city and managed by Schlanger's office. The network would be able to connect with the state's existing system of closed-circuit cameras that monitor highways, he said.

Eventually, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties would plug their systems into the city's hub.

The city would also work to link its network with the closed-circuit television systems in use by the University of Maryland, the Downtown Partnership, Oriole Park at Camden Yards and other private institutions on downtown's west side.

The network could also hook up to closed-circuit cameras in city schools during a possible terrorist attack, according to the city's request for proposals.

Before that network is built, the Baltimore Police Department will have constructed a separate surveillance center to continuously monitor a number of microwave cameras now being installed around the Inner Harbor, said Kristen Mahoney, director of the Baltimore Police Department's grants and government relations section, which handles homeland security requests.

Mahoney and police officials visited London in November to examine the United Kingdom's extensive use of such cameras.

Under the Inner Harbor plan, the cameras would be able to transmit images to helicopters and, eventually, police cruisers, Mahoney said.

Dozens of surveillance cameras exist throughout downtown Baltimore to deter crime, but those images are generally taped and reviewed only occasionally. The new network, financed by grants from the Department of Homeland Security, is aimed at fighting terrorists as much as drug dealers.

Other cities -- Washington, D.C.; Tampa, Fla.; Jersey City, N.J.; and Virginia Beach, Va. -- have built closed-circuit systems to help monitor crime. But most, like Washington, activate and monitor the systems mainly during events that attract large crowds, according to a June 2003 report from the U.S. General Accounting Office.

The proposed Baltimore regional system, agreed to by an arm of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, could be one of the most extensive undertaken in the nation, experts said.

"I have not heard of such a big project," said Cedric Laurant, policy counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center. "We reject the use of public video cameras in public places if ... used on a permanent basis."

Arthur Spitzer, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area, said his group fought Washington's system and said the D.C. City Council curbed the Police Department's plan.

"This is the first one I've heard of where apparently they're planning to put cameras around an urban area to keep them on all the time," Spitzer said of Baltimore's plan.

He said cameras infringe on privacy rights and are ineffective in fighting either crime or terrorism.

"This is just another step toward Big Brother," he said. "One of the freedoms that Americans take for granted is the freedom to walk down the street without the government looking over your shoulder all the time."

City Council President Sheila Dixon said she was concerned that the federal grants would eventually run out and the city would be stuck with the bill.

Mayor Martin O'Malley said the Downtown Partnership's use of cameras has been successful and residents want to know why the city does not use more cameras.

"You never want to have people operating cameras to look into windows," O'Malley said. "This is about being as proactive as you can be with the limited police resources you have."

The Chip

Technology gets under clubbers' skin

By Chetna Purohit

Wednesday, June 9, 2004 Posted: 1324 GMT (2124 HKT)

(CNN) -- Queuing to get into one nightclub in Spain could soon be a thing of the past for regular customers thanks to a tiny computer chip implanted under their skin.

The technology, known as a VeriChip, also means nightclubbers can leave their cash and cards at home and buy drinks using a scanner. The bill can then be paid later.

The system is also designed to curb identity theft and prevent fraudulent access to credit card accounts that is increasingly common in crowded restaurants and clubs.

Clubbers who want to join the scheme at Baja Beach Club in Barcelona pay 125 euros for the VeriChip -- about the size of a grain of rice -- to be implanted in their body.

Then when they pass through a scanner the chip is activated and it emits a signal containing the individual's number, which is then transmitted to a secure data storage site.

The club's director, Conrad Chase, said he began using the VeriChip, made by Applied Digital Solutions, in March 2004 because he needed something similar to a VIP card and wanted to provide his customers with better service.

"I believe we should use new technology to provide our customers with the best service and entertainment," Chase told CNN.

He said 10 of the club's regular customers, including himself, have been implanted with the chip, and predicted more would follow.

"I know many people who want to be implanted," said Chase. "Almost everybody now has a piercing, tattoos or silicone. Why not get the chip and be original?"

In the wake of the Madrid train bombings that killed 190 people in March, Chase said VeriChip could also boost security by speeding up checks at airports, for example.

He denied the scheme had any drawbacks. The VeriChip is an in-house debit card and contains no personal information. It is made of glass so poses no health risk, Chase said.

But Dr. Arun Patel, a general physician in Los Angeles, warned that placing an electronic device inside the body could be problematic.

"From a medical standpoint, obviously you worry about radiation with any electronic device," Patel said.

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-- I don't believe that trash about catching drug dealers. Cops in this area (DC/Balt) park and watch drug dealers, if you buy they take you down. The drug dealers remain. It's no secret that cops in DC know where the drug dealers are and even drive by them. If they wanted to arrest them then you wouldn't see them all over the streets walking around in plain view.

-- No one is sticking a chip in my. I will not allow myself to be tagged like an animal to make it easier for companies and government to track me.

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i hate this stuff.

i am sure they are putting these cameras up to catch terroritsts... OK!

while i have nothing to hide from big brother, i still don't want him watching me everywhere. and i don't want him busting the drug dealers! how else am i gonna get mine?

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chips in a person, that could lead to problems, basically copying that chip and taking identities of people would be easier, plus itd prolly be simple to hack into, dunno why, just have the feeling it will have al ot of problems to do.

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Originally posted by Hobo

chips in a person, that could lead to problems, basically copying that chip and taking identities of people would be easier, plus itd prolly be simple to hack into, dunno why, just have the feeling it will have al ot of problems to do.

its called the mark of the beast..dont ever get a chip placed inside your body

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