Dear Secretary Chertoff and Secretary-nominee Napolitano:
I am writing to request that the Department of Homeland Security end the practice of funding video surveillance systems by local governments. Please bar states and municipalities from using the Urban Areas Security Initiative and the State Homeland Security Program grant funds to pay for video cameras or other surveillance equipment.
Video surveillance is a waste of scarce taxpayer resources. Large-scale government studies in the
and elsewhere have demonstrated that these cameras have no impact on overall crime rates; at best they simply disperse the crime to other locations.
Nor does video surveillance seem to dissuade terrorists such as those who bombed the
London subways in July 2005, who showed no concern over their repeated appearance on camera.
But video surveillance does harm civil liberties. It subjects our every public action to unblinking scrutiny. Embarrassing, humiliating or horrifying action can be replayed endlessly online. Both racial profiling and voyeurism by camera operators are rampant. Our right to assemble and protest is impinged as people fear government tracking and investigation.
Homeland security funding should be used to protect us – to help first responders, to better investigate crime – not to spy on innocent Americans. Please end the funding of video surveillance.