New cameras in downtown Houston brewing debate

Supporters see no problem with it, but one civil rights group say the new surveillance cameras are a violation of privacy
January 8, 2014 8:14:29 PM PST
A battle is brewing over public safety and the right to privacy. One civil rights group is speaking out against the installation of dozens of new surveillance cameras by the city of Houston.

The use of surveillance cameras to monitor the public is a source of debate among Houstonians.

"I just think it violates privacy. If they don't have a reason to be watching you, I don't think they should be," Houston resident Andrew Norton said.

"I don't have a problem with it. I'm not a conspiracy theorist and I don't have any problems with the government putting cameras up," Houston resident Andre Ho said.

The city of Houston just announced an expansion of its video surveillance network in highly populated public areas, calling the cameras a prevention tool for crime and terrorism. The disagrees.

"This is a powerful tool for a growing Big Brother state," Texas Civil Rights Project attorney Amin Alehashem said.

The group warns that safety cameras can easily be used to attack the innocent.

"They might see you interacting with somebody that's known to have been involved in some criminal activity but you yourself might not be," Alehashem said.

The city issued a statement saying, "The courts have continuously ruled that there is no expectation of privacy in public places."

Its addition of 180 cameras downtown will bring the total to about 1,000 at a cost of $18.5 million federal grant. At the Houston marathon, the city says cameras could prevent an attack like the one in Boston.

And some people say they're OK sacrificing privacy for protection.

"It's public space. Public safety is a concern," Houston resident John Ivey said.

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