April 6, Chicago, IL
When the body of Chicago's school board president was found partially submerged in a river last fall, a bullet wound to the head, cameras helped prove it was a suicide.Perhaps the pervasive use of cameras has done more to stem the tide of crime in the city than has previously been discussed.
Friends had speculated someone forced Michael Scott to drive to the river before shooting him -- and maybe even wrapped his fingers around the trigger.
But within days, police recreated Scott's 20-minute drive through the city using high-tech equipment that singled out his car on a succession of surveillance cameras, handing the image from camera to camera. The video didn't capture Scott's final moments, but it helped convince police his death was a suicide: He wasn't followed.
He wasn't following anyone. He never picked up a passenger.
The investigation offered a riveting demonstration of the most extensive and sophisticated video surveillance system in the United States, and one that is transforming what it means to be in public in Chicago.
"I don't think there is another city in the U.S. that has as an extensive and integrated camera network as Chicago has," said Michael Chertoff, the former Homeland Security secretary.
New York has plenty of cameras, but about half of the 4,300 installed along the city's subways don't work. Other cities haven't been able to link networks like Chicago. Baltimore, for example, doesn't integrate school cameras with its emergency system and it can't immediately send 911 dispatchers video from the camera nearest to a call like Chicago can.
Even London -- widely considered the world's most closely watched city with an estimated 500,000 cameras -- doesn't incorporate private cameras in its system as Chicago does.
Chicago police point to 4,000 arrests made since 2006 with the help of cameras. And, an unpublished study by the Washington-based Urban Institute found crime in one neighborhood -- including drug sales, robberies and weapons offenses -- decreased significantly after cameras were installed, said Nancy La Vigne, director of the institute's Justice Policy Center.