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Wide-Area Surveillance

A story ran recently about wide-area surveillance and how it was quietly used in Compton, CA, to help solve crimes. This type of surveillance was provided by Persistent Surveillance Systems, a security company started by retired Air Force veteran Ross McNutt. Security cameras attached to the belly of a small aircraft essentially watch a given city or area in real time. While there are pros to this type of surveillance, there are many concerns.

This wide area surveillance system acts as a cost-effective eye in the sky. If a crime occurs, authorities can review the footage in a specific area to follow the suspect’s moves and eventually catch them. The problem then becomes the fact that everyone in the given area is being monitored, both suspects and civilians.

While they may not be watching everyone’s every move, they definitely have the resources to do so. How can residents be sure that the footage isn’t being abused? When does this surveillance go too far? As in the case of the Compton, CA story, residents were unaware they were being monitored. Would it have been more accepted if residents were informed? No one likes to be left in the dark, especially when it comes to being watched and recorded. Residents and authorities should be able to discuss concerns and vote on implementation. If this wide-area surveillance system drops crime rates, and consequently makes the neighborhood safer, residents may be more welcoming to the surveillance system.

It has proved successful in the past, effectively locating bombing suspects in Afghanistan. Aside from that, its cost pales in comparison to its ability to monitor large scale areas. While it can’t zoom in and won’t produce clear, high quality pictures of faces, it can track movement and lend itself to proving that someone is innocent or guilty.

If this type of surveillance was being employed in your neighborhood or city, how would you feel or react? Would knowing about it beforehand change the way you felt about it? Do you agree or disagree with the direction our security measures are headed? We would love to hear your responses and feedback. Find us on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest.

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