Atlanta video surveillance center to open - CBS46 News

Atlanta video surveillance center to open

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ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) -

Did you ever get the feeling someone is watching you? If you walk down one of Atlanta's busy streets, you're probably right. The police department will keep an even closer eye on the city with a new surveillance camera system they say will help them fight crime.

Monitors stretch from the floor to the ceiling.  Police scan every movement on the street in what looks like a scene from a futuristic movie.

It's the Atlanta Police Department's new operation shield video integration center, the place where police coordinate and watch more than 100 cameras, mostly downtown, as they keep an eye out for crime.

"When you have an individual on video, it really does enhance your ability to put criminals in jail," Mayor Kasim Reed said.

The mayor said the new surveillance program will protect the city better and put away more criminals. Police already used the cameras to set their sights on the DragonCon parade through downtown over the Labor Day weekend.

Mayor Reed hopes to expand the system and link up thousands of cameras, not just on downtown streets but all around town at places like Georgia State University and businesses like the Publix supermarket in Buckhead.

Privacy advocates said, however, the new system could invade personal liberties.

Debbie Seagraves, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, said, "We don't have a problem with surveillance cameras per se. (But) generally speaking, there are no privacy safeguards. How will the video be kept? Will it be misused? How will it be destroyed? We have to make sure it is used for purposes the public intended it for - deterring crime."

CBS Atlanta asked Mayor Reed what safeguards are there to ensure this video is not used for anything other than policing. "Every single camera we have installed is in the public of way," Mayor Reed said. "There is not any greater release of your privacy than if you walk down Peachtree Street."

Katie Earnshaw works downtown.

She believes more surveillance cameras can keep Atlantans safer. "I think it's a good idea," Earnshaw said. "If people think they could be caught on camera and they could be turned in because they were called up, it might help."

Max Schneider is for more surveillance as long as it's used to fight crime and not single out innocent citizens. "It gives me the creeps a little. It can make things safer. But I'm not sure if it's going to be used correctly," Schneider said.

The city and the police foundation have pitched in a half million dollars each for the surveillance system. The state granted another $1.2 million.

Officials said discussions are being held to link up with even more cameras at CNN Center, Georgia State University, the Georgia World Congress Center and MARTA, along with cameras in the Buckhead area.

Copyright 2011 WGCL-TV. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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