The new mobile surveillance command center was approved by city officials earlier this month. The goal is that it will give police officers a birds-eye view of large outdoor spaces, especially crowded public gathering spots.
The trailer will come equipped with flashing blue lights to alert passersby to the presence of the police and their watchful eyes in the sky. Police Chief Don Gammage has said that the department has reviewed statistics that show that the trailers work to deter crime. When people realize they are being watched, Gammage says, the data shows a steep decline in criminal activity in the immediate vicinity.
Olive Branch is not alone in possessing such a surveillance trailer. Southaven, Mississippi, police have had one for several years and use it during the Christmas holidays to watch over crowded shopping centers. Nearby Collierville also uses one and stakes out popular gathering spots. Olive Branch said the trailer cost about $50,000 and will likely be used at gatherings such as the city’s July 4th celebration.
In previous instances of police purchasing such surveillance trailers the ACLU has voiced opposition to the use of public money to put surveillance cameras in public places. The ACLU says it has a problem with police seeking to watch people who are not doing anything wrong. Rather than protecting the public, the surveillance amounts to watching everyone in the hopes that they are able to can find someone doing something wrong.
Though the cameras have not sparked much outrage among residents, that is precisely what concerns civil rights groups, which worry about a slow dilution of privacy rights. Olive Branch police, for instance, have not yet said how long the video gathered by these surveillance trailers will be stored. Allowing police to hold onto videos that could later be mined for other information worries groups like the ACLU, which has long warned about the increasing use of sophisticated military technologies in civilian law enforcement agencies. For example, hundreds of police agencies across the country have already purchased and are using drones for various law enforcement and surveillance purposes. Though Olive Branch isn’t in drone territory yet, the worry is that it could be a short and very slippery slope before we have pilotless aircraft circling above our heads.
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Source: “Olive Branch plans to buy $50k surveillance trailer to deter crime in crowds,” by The Associated Press, published at TheRepublic.com.