Cover story: Smile! You’re on someone’s camera

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Imagine a silent documentary of your life from the minute you walk out of your home to begin your day.

Daily video records of your morning coffee run, trip to gas up the car, entry into your workplace, and your time on the clock. Cameras record you leaving for a meal break and coming back from it, the rest of your workday, your walk to the car or the bus or train station at the end of the day, and your trip home. If you decide to go anywhere afterward, cameras record that, too, along with your weekend itinerary.

You don’t have to imagine that kind of surveillance in Worcester. It’s already here.

The city is building its surveillance power by adding a network of private cameras to its expansive public safety system.

Courtesy Worcester Police Department

The city is building its surveillance power by adding a network of private cameras to its expansive public safety system.

The Worcester Police Department Camera Collaborative, working through local neighborhood associations and the Worcester PD mobile app, is compiling a list of private cameras throughout the city that scan parking lots, sidewalks, streets and parks, and now number more than 1,000. That’s on top of a network of more than 1,000 city cameras installed and monitored by the city.

A press release about the program reads in part, “Providing your local law enforcement agency with the location of your security camera empowers them with the information needed to catch criminals faster, and since you own the camera, your participation always remains 100 percent voluntary.”

So far, the program has been a hit with neighborhood watch groups.

“The police are aware that there’s a camera and they can go back and look at the tape if the property owner allows,” said Casey Starr, a community organizer with the Main South Community Development Corporation. “The police will not have access to the cameras. No one is looking at these cameras during the day.”

It all seems innocent enough, but is it really?


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