Surveillance stepped up during Detroit annual car event

| 8/14/2003

Privacy advocates don’t like wireless devices police will use Aug. 16 along the 16-mile stretch of the Woodward Dream Cruise classic car event, which passes through nine communities in the area.

Six remote-controlled surveillance cameras have been set up to transmit live video images of Detroit’s crowd and traffic conditions to handheld and laptop computers carried by cops.

It's the first time surveillance cameras have been set up on such a wide scale to send live pictures to devices that police officers can carry in their pockets or set up on the front seat of a squad car, according to GigaTrans, the Detroit-based wireless Internet company providing the network, the Detroit Free Press reported.

A police officer walking the route can radio headquarters and have a live video image streamed to his handheld PC. Officials monitoring the feeds at a command center can instantly transmit pictures as officers are dispatched to check it out. A split screen can show all six cameras at the same time to provide pinpoint directions on where traffic or crowd problems are occurring.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan says it smacks of Big Brother.

"This is very problematic," ACLU spokesperson Wendy Wagenheim told the newspaper. "When the police can read a paper over your shoulder and you don't even know it, I think some alarms should go off."

Police say they need all the help they can get, mostly because the area is expecting more than 1.7 million spectators.