Surveillance serves as a cornerstone of the evidence-gathering portion of criminal investigation necessary to prevent or prosecute criminal activity. Surveillance involves discreet, covert observation of people, places, organizations, or objects. Surveillance assists law enforcement in a number of ways, such as collecting information on suspected criminals, verifying the accuracy of criminal and/or witness statements, observing crimes in progress, protecting witnesses to criminal activity, and preventing terrorism. This entry reviews the legal cases associated with surveillance capabilities, describes the purpose of cities participating in surveillance activities, and details the widespread and controversial use of video surveillance by the city of Chicago, Illinois, including examples of how the tactic has stopped potential catastrophic attacks in the city.
Ultimately, surveillance encompasses a balancing act between the individual right to privacy and the societal right to protection. It is important to realize the distinction between privacy itself and a reasonable expectation of such. For instance, in United States v. McKinnon (1993) , the Court denied a right to privacy in a police car, even if unaware of the use of recording devices. The right to privacy is protected by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which safeguards against unreasonable search and seizure without probable cause and judicial affirmation.
Certain types of surveillance require probable cause and a court order. Katz v. United States (1967) stipulates the legal foundation necessary for electronic surveillance and wiretapping of phones. In this case, Charles Katz was convicted of gambling on the basis of evidence obtained via recording devices at the phone booth where he placed bets. The Supreme Court overturned the conviction because the police, although acting on probable cause, had not secured judicial approval for use of the recording devices.
The ultimate purpose of surveillance is to keep society safe from harm. The U.S. Congress passed legislation, Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, authorizing law enforcement, on behalf of society, to intercept communication in order to prevent and/or to prosecute criminal behavior.
There are many ways to conduct surveillance, including visual, audio, and aerial. Law enforcement officers choose the type of surveillance based on the purpose for the surveillance and the subject. Stationary surveillance (a stakeout) occurs when the location of the criminal activity is known, while moving surveillance (a tail) allows a greater amount of information to be gleaned about the subjects, their associates, and a host of activities.
Since 9/11, many police departments, especially those in large cities, have developed counterterrorism programs to protect their jurisdictions as well as support national counterterrorism efforts. Such activities are encouraged by federal agencies, many of whom cooperate with local law enforcement. Fusion centers and joint task forces have been developed to allow for a coordinated approach to the identification and prevention of terrorist activity, as well as the integration and sharing of information. There are concerns that local jurisdictions lack the oversight that characterizes national law enforcement, that intelligence gathering in general needs greater scrutiny to uphold individual rights to privacy, and that information is collected on law-abiding citizens without proper judicial review. The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, known as the USA PATRIOT Act and signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 26, 2001, granted tremendous latitude to law enforcement agencies to search, detain, and conduct surveillance on individuals suspected of engaging in terrorist activities.
In Chicago, the use of surveillance cameras has gained widespread usage. Monitored by the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications, they have been integrated into a system called Operation Virtual Shield. The Office of Emergency Management and Communications and the Chicago Police Department possess the capability to monitor the cameras, which yield information on traffic infractions, violence, and areas deemed vulnerable to terrorism such as the Chicago Board of Trade and the Federal Reserve. An estimated 24,000 surveillance cameras in Chicago have the capacity to increase the size of the image, provide facial recognition, and track targets from one camera to the next.
The theory behind surveillance cameras lies at the heart of crime prevention: that observation reduces criminal activity; that identification of criminal behavior increases prosecution, which serves as both punishment and deterrence; and that society feels safer as a result of police presence. However, considerable opposition to the use of surveillance cameras also exists, as do concerns regarding civil rights violations. The American Civil Liberties Union objects strongly to the widespread use of surveillance cameras and contends that they infringe on the rights, including privacy rights, of law-abiding citizens.
The surveillance cameras in Chicago seem to have mixed results. Traffic accidents have not decreased but speeding has diminished, so there are less severe injuries. Certain areas of the city have seen a reduction in crime rates, and police departments claim reduced costs for crime enforcement. Vocal opponents of surveillance point to the limited data on the efficacy of surveillance techniques to reduce violence and criminal activity, while stressing the need to protect privacy.
Examples of the use of surveillance in criminal cases in the Chicago area include the NATO 3 and Adel Daoud. In the case of the NATO 3, surveillance and undercover work by the Chicago Police Department during the 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago led to the arrest of several people on charges of plotting terrorist attacks. Although not convicted of terrorism charges, three suspects were convicted of criminal activity and sentenced to prison. In the case of Adel Daoud, an 18-year-old U.S. citizen living in a Chicago suburb, he was arrested for attempting to detonate a bomb in downtown Chicago. The arrest followed an undercover investigation, which included surveillance, led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Chicago’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. Daoud was convicted of criminal charges, though appeals are pending.
On the one hand, there is little doubt that law enforcement will continue to utilize surveillance for investigative and preventive purposes. On the other hand, the battle will continue to rage over individual privacy versus societal protection.
Nancy Zarse and Marcia Baruch
See also Global Surveillance ; New York, New York, Surveillance in ; Surveillance, Theories of
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