City Council will go straight to voters regarding a proposal to try fighting crime with video surveillance.
Council has passed a bill to put a referendum on the May ballot asking voters whether they support the installation of video cameras on Philadelphia streets.
The result of the vote will not obligate the Philadelphia Police Department to take any specific action, but will only gauge public opinion on the issue.
If the vote does call for video surveillance, however, a section will be added to Philadelphia's charter asking the city to consider its use, according to the same bill.
Ultimately, the decision to implement video-surveillance programs belongs to the Philadelphia Police Commissioner, said William Carter, legislative aid to Councilman Darrell Clarke, who co-sponsored the bill.
The Philadelphia Police would not respond to questions about the issue.
Carter said the Police Commissioner has not fully endorsed the use of surveillance.
He added that the vote mainly serves to determine whether citizens feel comfortable with video surveillance.
It "is allowing the citizens of Philadelphia to have some input," Carter said. "In a lot of cities, these measures are enacted without broad support."
The ballot question indicates that the city would use video surveillance in a "manner that protects civil liberties and legitimate privacy interests."
However, Legislative Director of the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union Larry Frankel still believes the program would be dangerous.
He has testified before City Council twice in the past two years, saying that video surveillance is ineffective and poses a danger to civil liberties.
But Frankel said that, because the ACLU is currently focused on other efforts, it will not be campaigning against video surveillance.
"We're not an organization that can run election campaigns," Frankel said, adding that the vote will not lead to anything definite.
Of the 16 Council members, only Councilman Wilson Goode and Councilwoman Marian Tasco voted against the bill.
Tasco's legislative aid Derek Green said that the councilwoman's concern was not with video surveillance but with the legal language of the referendum.
Councilman Michael Nutter voted in favor of the ballot question because he thinks that video surveillance would be effective, according to his spokeswoman Julia Chapman.
"He's aware of the civil liberties issues surrounding cameras, but also sees the use from a crime-fighting perspective," Chapman said.Comments powered by Disqus
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