Tag Archives: Chicago

War On Drugs, America’s Public Enemy No. 1

CHICAGO — I was sitting in a cab with my classmate as the driver drove down the streets of Austin, a neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago, which has the highest number of homicide cases in the city.

“What are you two Asians doing in a black neighborhood?” the driver asked.
“We are reporters.” I answered.

The driver, an immigrant from Pakistan, pointed to a row of houses that were either burned down or boarded up and asked: “Do you think this is America?”

I don’t know the answer. Austin, and other neighborhoods on the west and south sides, is obviously part of America. But it is not the America that I pictured.

I began to search for answer to the question, and through this process I learned. a shocking fact – that the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world. According to the International Center for Prison Studies, the country houses 22 percent of the world’s prisoners. So what happens to “land of the free, home of the brave?”

As I talked to community leaders, a lot of them mentioned the “war on drugs,” and especially how it applies to African-Americans.

It all started in 1971 when then-President Richard Nixon declared that, “America’s public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse.” Since then, the U.S. has been spending more and more money on drug enforcement. According to a story in Quartz, the U.S. now spends more than $40 billion each year on drug prohibition.

In fact, some current and former law enforcement officers have begun to question the effectiveness of the war on drugs.

James Gierach, a former Cook County assistant state’s attorney in the 1970s and now a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, believes the war on drugs creates the very problem it tried to prevent.

“Al Capone was in favor of the prohibition of liquor. Why? Because it was the foundation of his business. It enabled him to make $2 billion dollars a year in today’s currency…. Drug cartels around the world are in favor of the war on drugs… because when you outlawed something that people want, it makes that commodity the most valuable commodity in the face of the earth. We tell the kids don’t do drugs and we slide a pot of gold next to the choice we tell them not to take,”

David Simon, a former crime reporter with the Baltimore Sun and creator of the TV show “The Wire,” said in the documentary “The House I Lived In” that the war on drugs undermines the law enforcement’s ability of fighting crime.
“There are lots of detectives I admired for their professionalism, for their craft. The drug war created an environment in which none of that was rewarded,” he said. “A drug arrest does not require anything other than getting out of your radio car and jacking people up against the side of a liquor store. Probable cause? Are you kidding?”

According to Simon, the “simplicity” of a drug arrest means a police officer can make more arrests and get paid for the extra hours he worked.

“Compare that guy to the one guy doing police work—solving a murder, a rape, a robbery, a burglary. If he gets lucky, he makes one arrest for the month… At the end of the month, when they look and when they see officer A, he made 60 arrests. Officer B, he made one arrest. Who do you think they make the sergeant?” Simon said.

Therefore the war on drugs creates an incentive for law enforcement to go into a neighborhood and arrest people while interring with other police works. In the long run, it creates the distrust between police and the community.

In my opinion, drug abuse is a public health issue instead of a criminal justice issue. The tax money should go to prevention and treatment instead of building prisons.

Drugs do not dignify individuals, and there is no argument. But the war on drugs that lasts for more than 40 years do not accomplish any of its original goals.

Twentynine Palms: The Best Training (But the Worst Social Life)

  • Pfc. Ryan May on the right with Pfc. Jonathan Saldivar taking a break from heavy artillery training. (Niccole Kunshek/MEDILL)
    Pfc. Ryan May on the right with Pfc. Jonathan Saldivar taking a break from heavy artillery training. (Niccole Kunshek/MEDILL)


TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. – Getting stationed in California should sell itself: Sun, sand and mountains. But that’s not the case for some Marines assigned to Twentynine Palms Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command and Combat Center — an hour northwest of Palm Springs in Southern California.

The base is centrally located between the mountains, ocean, Las Vegas, San Diego and Los Angeles, but all are several hours away. The nearby town of Twentynine Palms – population 26,000 — offers few entertainment options, especially for young Marines without a car.

Some Marines describe Twentynine Palms as a “difficult duty” station because of the limited free-time activities. Others see the isolation as a tradeoff to get the exceptional training offered at the base.

“I did not pick it, but you know you’ll be the best if you go here,” said Pfc. Ryan May, who works with heavy artillery. “So, you can’t really be mad about it.”

May and others said the opportunities to hone their training are almost as boundless at Twentynine Palms as the base itself. It is slightly bigger than Rhode Island, offering Marines the chance to do live fire exercises daily.

“That’s what the Marines like to do: Make things go boom,” said Mike King, a former Marine who served 15 of his 20 years at Twentynine Palms. “You can’t do the things we do here on this base anywhere else so it’s practical application of what they’ve been trained to do.”

The U.S. government created Twentynine Palms in 1949 because more live-fire ranges were needed for training. Many Marines not stationed there often cycle through it for training. The Integrated Training Exercise is a month long program focusing on warfare maneuvers for global operations. Currently, the base is used for pre-deployment training for missions in the Middle East. The desert terrain at Twentynine Palms mimics conditions troops will face in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Exercises also are conducted in a mock Middle Eastern village on the base.

The size of the base allows Marines to do more than just shoot large guns. The desert space also gives tank units room to practice moving their machines, which can be limited on other bases. Fewer space restrictions give the Marines more opportunity to see how the tanks perform, move and break down.

Tank mechanic Staff Sgt. Adam McPherson chose to be stationed at Twentynine Palms because of the hands-on experience it would provide.

“The tanks get used a lot,” he said. “We go to the field quite often out there and mechanics get that first-hand experience fixing them.”

McPherson believes because there are so many field exercises at the base he has more knowledge about his vehicle than a Marine who has not been stationed at Twentynine Palms.

The base also features the largest urban warfare training center, Range 220, in the Department of Defense, not just the Marine Corps, according to King.

“When you’re talking Range 220 here in Twentynine Palms, 1,500 buildings compose the size of about downtown San Diego. There’s no other place on the planet you can get this type of training.”

But after the training ends, the boredom begins – at least for some Marines. Most are males between the ages of 19 and 24, according to King. About 7,000 of the 10,500 Marines are single, said Capt. Justin Smith, the base’s public affairs officer. Drive around the city of Twentynine Palms and you will find many tattoo parlors and barbers, but you will not see any of the strip parlors that cater to many other military bases.

“Twentynine Palms, the city itself, is more family-oriented,” said King.

With limited entertainment options round the base, boredom can drive Marines to extremes. There is a saying at Twentynine Palms: Marines either become drinkers, gym rats or find religion.

Capt. Jonathan Zarling admitted single Marines can struggle with their social lives.

“You’ve got to travel to it,” he said. “Single guys on the weekend are usually wondering, ‘What do I do?’”

“We have each other out here to hang out with,” said Cpl. Jacob Evans. “We’ll just hang out at each other’s houses and grill, have a few drinks.”

For some, the desert has advantages for entertainment.

“I actually enjoy it because I’m a dirt bike rider,” said Sgt. Ricky Bajo. “There are a lot of dirt places here.”

Bajo has spent six years at Twentynine Palms and rides his dirt bike almost every weekend. Other Marines said they found the seclusion of the desert and base comforting.

“I like it here because I come from a small town where I was already isolated,” said McPhearson, who also has spent six years on the base. “The quiet is nice. I don’t like the hustle and bustle of the city, so for me it’s OK.”

The base offers discount entertainment options. There is a movie theater where Marines can see first run movies, restaurants, a fitness center, clubs, concerts, sporting events, stories, classes and seminars. Different commands throughout the Marine Corps also host various functions depending on the amount of recreational funds they receive, including day trips to popular destinations said Smith.

King advises young Marines to save money to buy a reliable car so they can take advantage of the ocean, mountains and big cities all a few hours’ drive from the base.

“If you cannot find something to do, you’re not trying hard enough,” he said.


Hard-luck vets find therapy partners in rescue dogs

CHICAGO — For many in the armed services, valor means courage against impossible odds. But for one group in Chicago, valor has a different meaning. Veterans Advancing Lives of Rescues, VALOR, is the name of a new program created by Safe Humane Chicago. The nonprofit organization pairs veterans working through tough times with dogs that have been confiscated in criminal cases for abuse or neglect and are now property of the city of Chicago.

“They are a little on a parallel track, in the sense that they have suffered some setbacks in their lives emotionally and sometimes physically,” said Janice Triptow, manager of behavior and training at Safe Humane Chicago. “So the marriage of these two populations is interesting and I think heartwarming.”

VALOR’s eight-week pilot program finished in November, when five veterans from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps learned training techniques and socialization skills to help the dogs become more adoptable. All of the veterans in VALOR are part of Thresholds, a Chicago-based provider of recovery services for people facing mental health challenges.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, “more than 1.3 million veterans received specialized mental health treatment from VA for issues related to mental health.” The 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress estimated that 49,933 veterans were homeless in the U.S. on a given night in January 2014.

Christa Velbel, VALOR co-founder and a Safe Humane Chicago volunteer, said the goal of the program is “to use this magical but scientifically documented human-animal bond to take people and dogs who have been through a lot of difficulty and a lot of pain and make their lives happier again.”

Donald Birdsong discusses why he joined the Army in the 1970s.

Army veteran Donald Birdsong, who suffered setbacks after losing his job, participated in VALOR’s second session along with four other veterans and graduated from the program on March 23. Of the 19 dogs that went through his session, seven have been adopted, nine are in foster homes, two remain in city custody and one was returned to its owner, according to Velbel.

VALOR’s next eight-week training session begins Monday and will include five more veterans. Learn more about this endeavor here.

Published in conjunction with Military Times Logo

Chicago Police begin random searches for explosives at CTA stations

The Chicago Police Department has started randomly searching CTA riders for explosives. Medill’s Adam Banicki spent time in the train station to find out how riders feel about the measure.

Chicago reporter covers violence, exposes hurt behind the numbers

Peter Nickeas

Peter Nickeas, 28, overnight breaking news reporter for the Chicago Tribune, makes a phone call from his office – his car.  John Kuhn/MEDILL

More than 400 times last year, family members had to stand next to the lifeless body of a loved one. More than 400 funerals. More than 400 trips to select a casket. More than 400 mourned by family and loved ones.

More than 400 times, murder – mostly from violence concentrated in several already-fragile neighborhoods – visited the streets of Chicago.

Yet the headlines bragged about the historic lows: Only 431 in 2013, they noted. But that’s news outlets focusing on the stats. One reporter in Chicago has made a point of trying to understand the humanity – the humans – behind the stats, behind the headlines, by going where the murders happen, when they happen, just like the cops.

Peter Nickeas was one of the first to respond to more than 225 of those crime scenes. One of two overnight breaking news reporters for the Chicago Tribune, he stood next to people whose sons, daughters, mothers, fathers and best friends had just been killed, people for whom the historic lows of Chicago violence mean absolutely nothing.

Nickeas talks to police officers, gang members, victims of violence and their families and friends. But he doesn’t stop there, where most reporters do.

For example, a man shot George Anderson in the head while he was standing in the street near Marquette Park on June 7. Police tape surrounded his dead body. A drunken man stumbled toward the tape, his black T-shirt pulled up over his head. He tried to walk through the crime scene. Cops tried to pull him back.

Marchello Kellum watched all this unfold. While a police officer’s Taser threatened the drunken man’s bare chest, Kellum spoke:

“You’re being real disrespectful. That’s my brother-in-law there.”

None of this information made it into the paper. But Nickeas wrote down what he saw and heard, and he included it under the timeline section of the Tribune’s website, along with pictures.

Nickeas at work in his original office.

Always on the phone, Nickeas stops at the Tribune a few times each night. John Kuhn/MEDILL

These short narratives reveal tension in crime scenes that typical stories with headlines like, “Man killed, four others wounded in Chicago overnight” lack. Nickeas writes both kinds of stories. But only one gets at what the 431 murders of 2013 mean for the city.

Nickeas is a part of an old tradition of crime reporting. The City News Bureau of Chicago used to serve as a wire service, alerting media outlets of breaking news. Reporters worked out of police stations and would sometimes go out with detectives.

But that started to dwindle in the ‘90s, and eventually the wire’s breaking news desk folded into the Tribune. And until Nickeas came along, overnight reporters worked from behind a desk, calling police districts for information. They went out only if there was a major story.

Nickeas is out every night. Two scanners, a laptop, phone, camera and sometimes even a staff photographer in tow, Nickeas’ car is his desk, the streets his newsroom. He encompasses both the beat-down fatigue of a worn war reporter and the compassion of a social worker. He talks straight, and in the language of the streets.

“My job is to take what I see and spit it out as something people can relate to. It’s about the neighborhood. It’s about the reaction. You can’t fucking do that unless you spend time on the job,” he said. “Nobody else, dude, is out there on the fucking streets.”

Dan Haar, Nickeas’ editor at the Tribune, said his timelines are resonating with people. The more traditional, bare facts stories, he said, have desensitized readers to the emotion hidden within them. And people want more.

“He gets email all the time from people saying, ‘You made me realize what this murder rate is really like,’” he said. “It’s something we should have been aching for. And now it’s indispensable,” Haar said.

Nickeas believes the city is tearing itself apart, and that covering the violence by dry numbers alone doesn’t help anyone understand the effects of the killings, which is why the streets are his office.

“I didn’t get into this so I could have a 9-5 punch the clock,” he said. “It’s important. I know it’s important.”

His timelines include what he sees and hears on the job. In one, “My soul is damn near destroyed,” he is at the funeral of 30-year-old Alphonso Love, killed just months after his 27-year-old sister. Nickeas is standing next to their mother:

“‘I don’t wanna go in there, I don’t wanna go in there,’ she cried again.

A man with white gloves held the glass doors open under a sign that read, ‘United Baptist Church’ and ‘Serving God through Humanity.’

The preacher’s steady voice guided Love and a small group of relatives down the aisle. ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.’

The man with the white gloves shut the doors.”

In this way, “Pete shows you the numbers,” Haar said. “You see his eye. You see what he’s hearing. He’s watching and listening so he can show you the stories that he sees.”

You stand next to Nickeas and observe parents explaining to their kids the proper way to duck their heads when they hear that firecracker noise.

You see intoxicated and entitled nightclub patrons indignant that they are forced to walk around a dead person lying in the street.

You witness a man – stuck outside the tape surrounding the city’s latest murder victim – try to seduce a woman who’s unable to enter her home until the freshly killed body is removed.

Nickeas’ reporting demands that you think about having to explain to your 6-year-old why someone would want to hurt somebody else. In front of your house.

“How do you answer that question? Why should you ever have to answer that question?” Nickeas asked.

Haar said questions like this bring the numbers to life. “This shows you what a fatal shooting does to a neighborhood. What it did to 400 neighbors, 400 families.”

It’s why Nickeas believes the type of coverage he provides is crucial. He’s putting a face on national security issues that are often viewed in a macro sense. He’s portraying security as something intensely personal, which it is.

He said sweeping societal statements about bad people doing bad things don’t do the victims or the offenders of the violence justice. And the same goes with police department press releases.

Peter Nickeas filing from his car.

Shuffling scanners, a laptop, camera and notebook, Nickeas reports and files stories from his car. John Kuhn/MEDILL

“You need to write about people making bad decisions,” and show that there’s a difference between excusing bad behavior and citing circumstances that contribute to it.

He said people should be aware of things like the Dan Ryan Expressway, which isolated poor, black Chicagoans from the rest of the community. To this day, the freeway—built while Richard J. Daley was mayor— contributes to the violence. But, “You can’t go around shooting people up because Old Man Daley was an asshole.”

These kinds of contributing factors aren’t present in all of Nickeas’ timelines. But the best ones get at them.

And it’s easy to forget just how hard—and sometimes dangerous—it is to do what Nickeas does during his shift.

Adam Sege is the other overnight breaking news reporter for the Chicago Tribune. He was hired a year after Nickeas, in October of 2012. Following the model set by Nickeas, Sege has produced similar work. Together and with the help of staff photographers, they bring the Tribune’s timelines to life.

He’s been chased by a man who he thought had a gun. Cursed at countless times by grieving and angry residents.

He has rules for his coined defense-by-offensive driving:

Don’t stop at red lights. Creep up to them, time them right. Don’t allow for ambiguity at stop signs. Make it clear whose turn it is to go. Avoid one-way streets that have speed bumps. Always avoid alleys.

His job takes him into dangerous places at dangerous times. Places where revenge is commonplace and the sounds of fired weapons echo only blocks away.

Personal risk is required of him in order to know the streets and neighborhoods where the killings happen. In order to describe them in timelines.

To cover the stories he does, to notice the detail and hear the conversations, “You have to keep your eyes open when you don’t want to. I’m good at keeping my eyes open,” Nickeas said.

Like when he and a photographer stuck around after firefighters left the scene of George Anderson’s murder and noticed Jennifer Wallace pour liquid from a yellow cup over the ground where he died, in silent tribute.

But what Nickeas sees comes at a price.

“When you’re standing back watching, you just have to absorb. It’s some sad-ass shit. If you’re around this drama it starts to affect you. It jades you. It affects your view on society,” he said.

But, “If it hurts me to write it,” he added, “I can basically assume that somebody’s going to read it.” Describing firefighters, for example, as they hose blood from a basketball court where 13 people were shot is probably tough to do. But it’s something most people don’t get to see otherwise.

It dredges up emotion. Exposes the broader hurt.

And that’s “like turning a light on and seeing things for what they are. Now you saw the people on the street. You saw people crying. You see how they remove the body. You see how they hose down the sidewalk. You’re seeing all this overnight. A lot of times it’s on a dark block—nobody cares that somebody’s dying,” Haar said.

It’s enough light to give a glimpse of those 431 families.

Peter Nickeas at the scene.

Nickeas responded to more than 225 crime scenes in 2013. John Kuhn/MEDILL

One idea: Hold terror trials at Thomson Prison

In November, a poll found that 41 percent of New York City residents thought it was a bad idea to try suspects with alleged ties to 9/11 in New York City.

The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion poll also found that 45 percent of residents thought it was a good idea. But many politicians including former Mayor Rudy Giuliani seized on the sentiment of the 41 percent and pushed the Obama administration to come up with another location.

In December, President Barack Obama authorized taking the Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Ill., into federal control and making it a U.S. penitentiary for the purpose of relocating some Guantanamo Bay detainees there. Charles E. Tucker Jr., who is executive director of the International Human Rights Institute at DePaul University, said the facility could solve more than the problem of what to do with detainees.

“If you close Guantanamo Bay and move people out to the Thomson facility in Illinois, I could easily imagine a federal courtroom set up there where you wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel but could solve the court issue,” Tucker said.

The fact that federal courts are located in populous areas is one concern many have about using civilian courts to try suspected terrorists. According to the Marist poll, 34 percent said they thought holding the trial in New York City would compromise their personal safety. (Fifty-two percent disagreed.)

Tucker cited the example of the federal court building in Chicago, which is located in a densely developed and populated area. Thomson is a rural area of Illinois with a population of about 550 people.

Tucker said he thinks federal law is more than adequate to try suspected terrorists in federal court. But he acknowledged that security is a concern for not only the general population but also those involved in the trial.

“There’s no way to keep a judge’s identity a secret during a trial,” Tucker said. “They could become a lifetime target.”

Matthew Lippmann, a professor of criminology, law and justice at the University of Illinois in Chicago, said it remains to be seen whether suspects will be tried in civilian courts and, if so, where.

“Obama appeared that he would not use these [military courts] at all, would abolish them, but right now it’s unclear where these 9/11 individuals are going to be prosecuted.”

For an interactive map and more information about the sites considered for the relocation of Guantanamo Bay detainees, click here.

Crime cameras make their presence felt, but what is the real mark of success?

Chicago’s camera surveillance system is second to none in the United States, at least in terms of sheer size.  Since 2006, the Chicago Police Department have made over 4500 arrests directly related to the their blue light camera system and other observation cameras, which monitor high crime areas.

Despite these high numbers, are the blue light cameras and other surveillance camera really that effective?

According to the Chicago Police Department, there are 800 Police Observation Device (POD) cameras in the city, all of which are operational. District and specialized units conduct POD missions, and additionally, the Chicago Police Crime Prevention and Information Center has staff that monitors the cameras.

For comparison’s sake,  analyze London’s crime camera system.  London’s crime fighting cameras are similar to that of Chicago.  Over 10,000 closed circuit cameras are operated by the state, at a cost of 200 million Euros, but only three percent of London’s street robberies are solved using the footage gathered from these cameras.

San Francisco also has deployed a crime camera system as well, although much smaller in nature.  According to a 2008 San Francisco Chronicle article, their 68 anti-crime cameras only contributed to one arrest in about two years, in city that saw a 12-year-high of 98 homicides.  San Francisco spent $900,000 on these cameras and had plans for installing another 25 more cameras.  The Chronicle points out that thefts dropped by 22 percent within 100 feet of the cameras, but had no effect on burglaries and car thefts. Murders also went down within 250 feet of the cameras, but the reduction was completely offset by an increase 250 to 500 feet away.

Chicago unveiled a new computer-aided dispatch system back in December 2008 that was paid for with a grant from the Department of Homeland Security. The system is designed to beam an image on the crime location to a computer dispatcher’s screen based off the origin of the 911 calls.

“We can now immediately take a look at the crime scene if the 911 caller is in a location within 150 feet of one of our surveillance cameras, even before the first responders arrive,” Ray Orozco, the executive director of the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications, said to the Chicago Tribune.

Sergeant Antoinette Ursitti of the Chicago Police added “the Chicago Police Information Center monitors priority in progress calls for service and can identify areas where cameras are present and can be viewed.”

But what’s the true measure of success of these camera systems: crime prevention or solved crimes?

Jim Harper, the director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute, was quoted in a July 2007 ABC article: “They are good forensic tools — after something happens, they’ll tell you what happened.  But they do not provide protection against attacks, and that’s a key distinction.”

The future of surveillance: match box cameras

CHICAGO — The future is here.  Chicago has long utilized blue-light surveillance cameras to monitor high-crime neighborhoods, but now plans are in place to implement “covert” cameras as well.

With crime a concern of many around the city, police are taking steps to go beyond the norm when it comes to surveillance.  Overt cameras are now a thing of the past.

“They are incredibly small. I’ve seen some that would fit inside of a match box. . . . These can be secreted in locations that nobody would ever detect. It’s amazing where we’re going with technology,” Police Supt. Jody Weis said to the Sun-Times.

While blue light cameras still help to prevent crime and catch criminals, Ralph Thomas, operator of The Spy And Private-Eye Museum in Austin, Texas, said that these cameras are catching on all throughout the country.

“It is becoming more and more prevalent,” Thomas said.  “A couple years ago, the technology wasn’t there.  But now it is.  Law enforcement agencies are going to utilize it.  It’s another crime-fighting tool.”

While this technology is becoming more widely used by police, covert surveillance and crime scene surveillance has been in use since the assassination of President Lincoln. The FBI has crime scene photos taken just shortly after Lincoln was shot.

“Surveillance has been in use since the inception of photographer,” Thomas said.  “And covert surveillance has been used since the video camera [was invented].”

Part of the goal for these covert match box cameras is to prevent criminals from knowing exactly where these cameras are located.

“We put some here; we move it around; we run the operation,” Weis said.  “We arrest a lot of bad guys. Then we see where there’s another uptick, and we move ’em somewhere else. It’s kind of like mobile pods, but they’re covert. The bad guys will never know they’re being watched.”

Thomas agrees with Weis’ sentiment.

“Criminals know where overt cameras are.  That’s why there is a need for covert cameras,” Thomas said.

Camera surveillance in Chicago taken to a whole new level

CHICAGO — In a development that could draw parallels to George Owell’s 1984, Chicago has taken surveillance to a whole new level.  With over 10,000 pubic and private cameras already in place around the city, and with plans to add even more public and private cameras to the system, Chicago has, by far, the most extensive video surveillance system in the United States.  By comparison, New York City has about 4200 surveillance cameras.

Surveillance cameras. Photo by Quevaal

Although 10,000 cameras may seem  a lot when you compare Chicago to other U.S. cities to combat crime, apparently it is not enough for new emergency management chief, Jose Santiago.  Santiago was quoted in a recent Sun-Times article as saying, “We can help our first-responders…we can flip a switch and we’re there already. We can say, ‘This is what you’re about to get into. You might need more resources.’ We can say, ‘Maybe you shouldn’t go in this way.’”

Emergency management and communications spokesman Will Knight said that although locations for the new cameras as well as what private camera systems will be incorporated have yet to be determined, Chicago is “looking into all areas.”

Although such a system is designed to help cut down on crime, fears of the camera system being used to monitor people’s everyday’s lives, a la 1984, should not be a concern.

“The camera system is only used for traffic activity and criminal surveillance,” Knight said.  “This is a great initiative.  Every day universities, local hotels, businesses and residence buildings are all asking to be included in the system.  The point [of the surveillance system] is we can see something others cannot.”

In what has been a trend nationwide since the early 2000s, cities all across the country have been installing similar systems.  From Washington D.C. to Detroit to New Orleans, extensive surveillance systems seem to be the fad.

However, all of this pales in comparison to Great Britain’s surveillance system where over 4 million cameras are deployed.

The video surveillance system costs Chicago about $1.4 million a year to maintain.