Newark Plans to Use Cameras to Fight Violence Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker is expected to unveil a $3.2 million program using cameras that would be able to detect gunfire. The city is still reeling from the execution-style murders of three college students earlier this month.
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Newark Plans to Use Cameras to Fight Violence

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Newark Plans to Use Cameras to Fight Violence

Newark Plans to Use Cameras to Fight Violence

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Newark, New Jersey is desperate. After three college students were shot and killed there execution-style, the city is turning to technology to try to reduce crime.

JAMES HATTORI, host:

The mayor there, Cory Booker, is expected to unveil a $3.2 million program today. Cameras would actually swivel toward gunfire in the city's most dangerous neighborhoods.

BRAND: Geoffrey Albert is here now. He's a criminologist at the University of South Carolina. Welcome to the program.

Mr. GEOFFREY ALBERT (University of South Carolina): Hello.

BRAND: How effective is this technology?

Mr. ALBERT: Well, the technology of cameras and gunshot-sensing equipment is very good to solve a crime, but it's really unknown and untested in terms of any deterrents or in any prevention issue. And my concern here would be that, yes, you'd have pictures of people shooting weapons and perhaps people being shot, but in terms of any deterrents or any prevention, I'm not sure of the effectiveness.

BRAND: Right, because people aren't going to stop and look and see if there's a camera pointed at them before they start shooting.

Mr. ALBERT: Well, even if they do look or even if they're told that there's a camera, you know, we see every day on television cameras in convenience stores and we are looking for this person, which shows again that the people who commit these crimes are not concerned about being on tape, and what they do is help solve the crime but not prevent it.

BRAND: Well, how does it work? I mean, it sounds like a camera could turn and swivel at any loud noise - a firecracker, a car back firing.

Mr. ALBERT: Well, that's true and those are the false positives. But the technology is pretty good where they have been able to isolate sounds from gunpowder and they've been able to do pretty well. You're right, there are going to be some false positives, but it does pretty well at identifying gunshots and does fairly well at actually getting good pictures of that area. But again, it's going to be for use after the fact; it's rare - and we have seen no evidence that is going to prevent anything.

BRAND: What would you recommend as a good prevention tool?

Mr. ALBERT: Well, that gets down to the whole issue of what causes crime. And you know, we've been battling this one for decades and centuries. And I think in the short term, I think law enforcement has to attack problems of gang violence, has to attack problems of drugs, and none of this is new but none of it has been dealt with properly.

BRAND: A lot of attention was given to the broken windows theory. This was the theory that was used when Rudolph Giuliani was running New York City, in that if you focus on the petty crimes, you can prevent some of the larger crimes.

Mr. ALBERT: Broken windows theory is - yes, you look at the problems that go on with trash, with cars left in yards and the minor issues that deal with civil disturbances and in the net you will capture those who commit the larger crimes.

And yes, it's certainly worked. I mean the streets in New York are a lot safer than they were. They certainly trampled the rights of particularly minority citizens up there, but the end result is what they wanted. And in many ways that can work. I think we have to be careful of how we do it so as to not step on particularly minority citizens' rights.

BRAND: Well, what would you recommend across the river that the mayor of Newark do at least in the short term?

Mr. ALBERT: Fighting the drug problem, dealing with the gang problem, giving youth opportunity to feel good about themselves other than joining gangs, and making opportunities that are successful and having young people feel success is kind of the long-term key, but it's a long road to hoe.

BRAND: Geoffrey Albert of the University of South Carolina. Thank you.

Mr. ALBERT: Thank you, ma'am.

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