Rochester: One of the most "watched" cities nationally

Posted at: 05/30/2012 9:41 PM
Updated at: 05/31/2012 7:43 PM
By: Joangel Concepcion

CamerasIf you walk down certain streets in Rochester, the eye in the sky may be watching your every move.

Police say there are more than 100 surveillance cameras and 25 red light cameras throughout Rochester.

A recent study by Men's Health magazine named Rochester the fifth most watched city in the nation.

Police say the cameras are tools to prevent crime.

"We've caught crimes on camera, we've got get-a-way vehicles on camera. They helped us solve crimes. We've used them effectively. They've become a routine part of our business. We're invested in it. When we have crimes on the street we're constantly checking them. Patrol is constantly in contact with the camera room," RPD Deputy Chief of Operations Michael Wood tells News10NBC.

Some are programmed, while others are manual, but the system isn't perfect. Just a few weeks ago, a man was shot on smith Street near an intersection with a surveillance camera, but police say the camera was pointing the other way. In another recent shooting, a man was killed near a camera on Dayton Street, and again, police could not use the video because the camera was moving at the time of the shooting.

Kaelyn Rich is the local director for the New York Civil Liberties Union. She says the cameras raise a lot of questions. "What kind of cameras do we have? What kind of capabilities do they have? Can they see in people's windows as well as beyond our street corners and other safeguard place to make sure poor law abiding citizen's rights aren't being violated?" says Rich.

Rich says she's not against having the cameras, but making sure the public isn't at risk is her main concern. "If we're going to have cameras what kind of safeguards do we have in place? Who has access to that information. What kind of policies and procedures do we have to make that information isn't abused?"

Rochester police say they are the only ones with access to the cameras, and they plan to add even more in the future.

The surveillance cameras are something police say they are staying on top of. At one point, up to 25-percent of the cameras weren't working. The city has more than half a million dollars in the budget for more cameras, but police say they won't begin to install new ones until they are done with the evaluation process.