Bloomberg’s obsession with surveillance cameras

One of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s passions is guns; not that he likes them – he doesn’t.  His disdain for the Second Amendment and his abiding desire to keep firearms out of the hands of law-abiding citizens is known far and wide.  Despite the Supreme Court’s Second-Amendment affirming opinion two years ago, Bloomberg’s campaign to enlist other mayors in a plan to short-circuit private ownership of firearms in their jurisdictions as is the case in the Big Apple, still provides reason for him to visit colleagues in other cities and rail against the evils of private gun ownership.

Shortly after the capture of the so-called “Times Square bomber” earlier this month, Bloomberg took his anti-firearms show once more to Capitol Hill, where he testified that anyone thought by someone in government to be, or to be connected with a terrorist should be denied the right to purchase a firearm. Clearly, the mayor’s interest in wresting firearms from the hands of as many people in this country as possible has not flagged.

However, Bloomberg did manage a trip abroad last week (to London, England), to dip his hand once more into another of his pet projects – surveillance cameras.

The mayor is an avid fan of surveillance cameras; lots and lots of them.  Thus, his envy for the capitol of the United Kingdom – home to more surveillance cameras than any other city in the world.  One can see the mayor’s eyes open wide with envy last week as he toured London with its mayor, Boris Johnson, who pointed out many of the fully one-half million surveillance cameras operating to view and record virtually the every move of citizens and visitors alike in this British city similar in size to New York City.

New York’s system of several thousand surveillance cameras – which includes some 3,000 installed at Bloomberg’s directive in and around lower Manhattan and Midtown following an earlier visit to London in 2007 – while robust by U.S. standards, is paltry compared to London’s.  But, judging by Bloomberg’s latest foray to the U.K. to gush over their system, he aims to close the “surveillance gap.”

While the mayor might have public opinion on his side (recent polls indicate a majority of Americans still favor the deployment of surveillance cameras as a tool with which to thwart acts of terrorism), before he launches into yet another round of installing these expensive devices on poles, building, wires and on vehicles, someone might want to acquaint him with actual studies that question the usefulness of massive deployments of cameras.

Studies of the degree to which surveillance cameras in the U.K. have actually aided police in solving crimes, do not lend much support, if any, to a plan to buy and install huge numbers of cameras around a city.  A study conducted just last year by British law enforcement, for example, revealed that only about one in 1,000 crimes was solved by any one CCTV camera operating to record moves of Londoners. In the wake of that study, a government spokesman in Great Britain perhaps unwittingly revealed the real reason for having so many cameras in and around London — simply to make people “feel safer.”  A surveillance safety blanket, so to speak.

In fact,  the reality is that surveillance cameras are massively employed in the U.K. for a reason far less lofty than protecting the citizenry from acts of terrorism. Cameras mounted to buses, police cars, and other government-owned vehicles equipped with license-plate recognition cameras, generate huge amounts of revenue for the cash-strapped municipality; by nabbing parking-ticket scofflaws and drivers who haven’t paid the “central city tax” for the privilege of driving in downtown London.  However, I’m sure such a mundane reason for emulating London’s strangely-named “Ring of Steel” consisting of more than 500,000 surveillance cameras, would never cross Mr. Bloomberg’s mind.

34 comments Add your comment


May 17th, 2010
6:29 am

You can’t fault Bloomberg for wanting to keep his city safe knowing all those tea party types that don’t like the healthcare bill running around.


May 17th, 2010
6:46 am

I sure hope Obama hurries up with the internment camps for tea-partiers, they are the greatest threat to the Republic since GW…..

Chris Broe

May 17th, 2010
6:58 am

I’m ready for my closeup, Mr Bin Laden.

CNN just reported that in Juen, Apple is going to release the new iGat, the world’s first camera gun. It comes with the Zapruder Ap. It records drive-bys, murders, or just plain shooting up a joint as it happens. That way, people in sports bar with the fifty screens can watch themselves play out really cool death scenes as they are being keeled in real time (whenever the Yankees lose). “Cough, cough, it’s getting dark. I feel cold…..tell ma I always loved her apple pie……aurggh….”

Barr is….RIGHT! The only thing we need to add to the chaos in New York City is guns. Two Glocks and a Pizza! If I cant get shot here, I cant get shot anywhere. I left my blood, in New York City….

How about a little common sense. There are ten million white collar crooks, ganstas, and players in New York City. The only way to preserve law and order is with cameras and no guns. That’s why there’s no female bank robbers in the big apple: The cameras add at least ten pounds.

I don’t mind witnessing a mature adult like Bob Barr referencing a cartoon like the novel 1984 every time he sits down to write something. This is an age of specialization. And if Bob Barr is anything, he’s special.

But what I do object to is an ex-CIA, ex-congressman and political opportunist trying to use his celebrity to rag me about my civil rights. Yes, I enjoy hunting and owning firearms and would fight to the last drop of Bob Bar’s blood to preserve those rights. However, there is a public safety exception to all laws. New York City would be a hell on earth if everyone was armed. It’s tough enough in New York as it is. Have you ever been tongue lashed by a new yorker? If you think the pen is mightier than the sword, you havent seen or heard nothing yet. The tongue is more lethal than the tommy gun, trust me.

Once, I was driving to City Island in New York City for the lobster there. (Out of this world). Now to get there from the Bronx, one has to negotiate a traffic circle like in Paris. Well, my driving in that circle prompted a new yorker to pull up along side of me, roll down his window and yell, “Hey! Whatever you’re gonna do, DO IT!”. His tone and facial expression let me know what a total loser I was and would always be.

Yes, it’s dangerous enough in New York City without guns.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

May 17th, 2010
6:59 am

It’s a “New York politician” thing – always want lots of cameras around.

Redneck Convert (R--and proud of it)

May 17th, 2010
7:10 am

Well, I see they sent this godly Republican Bernie Kerik that was the police commissioner for NYC off to prison just for being a little crooked. It ain’t right, not when they want to put cameras on us just to see what we’re doing and spy on us. People like this Bloomberg want to take the anti-tank weapon and the two machine guns I use for hunting and self-defense away from me and then take pictures of me all day. I reckon so a bunch of cops can set around and laugh at the stuff I do. And then throw me in jail when they catch me running a red light or something.

I’m awful glad I got Bob Barr on my side. There’s already plenty of people that don’t like us armed rednecks and Tea Party people and we need a good person to protect us against them.

Have a good day everybody.


May 17th, 2010
7:15 am

I do think that having thousands and thousands of TV cameras mounted around NYC would be a grand invasion of right to privacy. As you mentioned, the cameras are mounted for one reason and then used for quite another. Let us take one of the law officials watching the monitor. He could be using it to track his wife’s boy friend around the city. That is not right. The opportunity to use cameras for a plethora of activities that are far, far away from what they were intended. We have to be active to protect the right to privacy. As far as the second amendment, that controversy will never go away. The one law that I have never understood is “the Miranda ruling” the right to remain silent. I have watched so many suspects on the tube being interrogated for hours even days till the suspect is just hanging on to consciousness. If all he had to say was he wanted a lawyer and the whole interrogation would cease, why doesn’t he? It does not ADD UP. I have been reading some of the Supreme Court decisions, have to be cognizant of the Law.


May 17th, 2010
7:58 am

When GW wanted wire-taps the right argued what’s the big deal, if you aren’t doing anything wrong you should have nothing to hide, I suppose the left could make the same argument concerning this issue….


May 17th, 2010
8:05 am

Bob: If instead of each new camera he hired a hundred police officers to watch the same area would it be any different? It’s just a device that saves manpower and money.


May 17th, 2010
8:06 am

Didn’t the feds just withdraw funding for New York city police recently? I mean after the attempted attack? Perhaps they thought the police were too effective. Cameras are fine, but more people will wear baseball caps, and keep their collars up. Nelsonhoward,–why do you expect “privacy” when you are in a public area?


May 17th, 2010
8:18 am

yes, lets let law-abiding terrorists buy guns and then turn off all the cameras we used to catch the one that left a bomb in times square. really? this is your argument?


May 17th, 2010
8:23 am

Didn’t the feds just withdraw funding for New York city police recently?

Thanks for a repeat of the Republican Big Lie, Joan. NYC had already received over $100 billion in stimulus funds for anti-terror activities. All the supposed “cut” did was reduce the total spending to something like 33% more than the previous year’s anti-terrorism spending. But don’t let that interfere with your Obama Derangement Syndrome. An election’s coming up, you know.


May 17th, 2010
8:31 am

I would love to take a poll of those that are complaining about their privacy being invaded by security cameras and see which ones are on Facebook and all other social sites that expose them to all sorts of invasions.


May 17th, 2010
8:42 am

Huh? The conservatives are constantly expanding the scope of warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens – government surveillance of your email, internet activities and phone calls – i.e., government watching your private life. But cameras that record *public* activity in *public* places is a problem for you? It’s all Big Brother. The same excuses are given for all government monitoring and control of our personal lives. Big Brother needs to save us from terrorists. So Big Brother needs to monitor your communications and activities in order to keep you safe. Personally, if I’m in public, I don’t care if a camera sees me, because everybody else can see me too. I’m much more concerned about the incursion of government surveillance into my private life. And you should be too.

Hillbilly Deluxe

May 17th, 2010
8:48 am

If I wanted the whole world to know what I was doing, I’d have a Twitter account.


May 17th, 2010
8:49 am

Having lived in NY city, let me just say that, having the right to carry around a weapon in that city is (i) not going to help you when the shooting starts, and (ii) simply increases the chance you will be killed. The statistic that counts the most in the end is this — the higher the number guns, the higher the number of arrivals of gun shot victims in emergency rooms and the higher the death rate from weapons. If you think packing a pistol in NY is a good idea, you haven’t spent any time on the streets in NY.


May 17th, 2010
8:55 am

I don’t think Bloomberg hates guns, so much as he likes a crime-free NYC, but not because he cares about public safety. He cares about (his personal) political safety and ensuring the “safety” of NYC as the epicenter of the financial world. I’d go off on a Broe-tangent and opine about Bloomberg’s efforts to curb crime on Wall Street, but this is about guns and cameras. As stated, guns are political poker chips, and the law didn’t stop Tony Soprano or Plaixco Burruss (both NJ residents) from packing heat. As I see it, if the NYPD can pu,p 40 rounds into an off-duty immigrant cab driver, who was reaching for his ID (thought he was in Arizona, I guess), let’s not worry about guns. CCTV cameras is another story. I would not go so far as Scout to say they are an effective substitute for human beings (law enforcement), but when used in conjuction with hard-working, professional law enforcement officers, they can expitdite investigations, and help catch terrorist who are preparing to flee the country. We live in the 21st century (no ATMs with cameras when the Bill of Rights was drafted). I gotta call B.S. on Bob. You want to attack Bloomberg’s take on the 2nd Amendment, let’s talk, but these cameras work and you either have to accept terrorism as a fact of life; or accept cameras as a fact of life. you cannot have your security and enjoy it too. So, I am announcing the Carlin doctrine of pre-emptive dismissal of the Benjamin Franklin/”trade freedom for security deserve neither” (mis) quote. Installing cameras does not restrict freedom. And if people have a problem, stay out of NYC.


May 17th, 2010
9:07 am

Curiously, in a supposed anti-incumbent year, most of the departing are not retiring but seeking higher office. We may recycle more than we replace. The bad news is that a frustrating 114 seats still have but one contestant. Two of them aren’t even incumbents, meaning they will affect state policy without being vetted by voters. And I have to think that we’d be better off if many had run instead for the Legislature — and cut down on the number running unopposed. Georgia’s problems are numerous. They aren’t going away. There’s too much stale thinking at the Capitol, on both sides of the aisle. New voices would be welcome.


May 17th, 2010
9:07 am

The Supreme Court will rule on the application of the 2nd Amendment to States and cities in a few weeks. Look for the Court to say the 2nd Amendment applies to the States. But also look for them to say that States & cities have some ability to curtail ownership and license gun ownership/possession.

Note this statement from Justice Scalia’s opinion in the Heller decision:
“…Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

Bloomberg will get some of what he wants re guns. And Barr will not like the decision.


May 17th, 2010
9:30 am

37 states have passed “shall-issue” concealed-carry laws. In the aftermath, the “wild-west” shootouts that ensue due to citizens with guns is such a dangerous problem that the number of states who have repealed their “shall-issue” CCW laws is … 0.

Back on topic…Cameras aren’t a problem per se…when the government “justifies” the installation of cameras with a “stated purpose” and then uses them in a different manner, then we have a problem. Bllomberg has proven himself a pathological liar (like most Democrats).

People in power want only one thing….more power.

Al Gore

May 17th, 2010
11:19 am

I invented the camera too

Rational Person

May 17th, 2010
11:53 am

The metro area of New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, N.Y.-N.J.-Pa. is rated 8th-safest in the country by Forbes Magazine at, so Bloomberg may know what he’s doing.

And, Bob, could we have a little less of that libertarian gun fetish?

Rational Person

May 17th, 2010
11:54 am

Oh, and the state of New York ranks 46th in gun deaths per 100,000.


May 17th, 2010
12:07 pm

“Huh? The conservatives are constantly expanding the scope of warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens – government surveillance of your email, internet activities and phone calls – i.e., government watching your private life. ”

You calling Clinton a conservative, or are you just mixed up a bit on your history?

Gerald West

May 17th, 2010
12:12 pm

Bob, at least you acknowledge that the primary use of the surveillance cameras in London is for mundane purposes like traffic control, not spying on citizens. You neglected to mention that the deterrent effect on street crime in London and smaller British cities is significantly more important than “making citizens feel safer.” It makes criminals wary of committing crimes that may be captured on camera.

Don’t pooh-pooh the use of cameras for traffic control. The cameras replace thousands of police who would otherwise have to patrol in cars or on foot, contributing to the traffic congestion. Also, London’s restrictions on private vehicles in the central zone works great: cars, taxis and buses move freely along streets that were once exasperatingly congested, and people zip around town in taxis and on the Underground trains without undue delay.

Mayor Bloomberg should emulate London in more ways than installing surveillance cameras. In contrast to New York and other large American cities, London has fit, healthy, good-looking citizens, little crime, clean air, good transport, and outstanding public spaces such as parks, playgrounds, museums, and transportation terminals.

Libertarian Tea-Bagger

May 17th, 2010
12:13 pm

@Beezlebud and Bob: The tea-party is the biggest threat to the Empire, not the Republic.


May 17th, 2010
1:51 pm

@Beezlebud Yeah, comrade, we have them ‘baggers running ’skeered’, now! lol! Running ’skeered’ over to foxnation to feel like they are a ‘majority’, that is…


May 17th, 2010
1:53 pm

@DawgDad I believe it’s YOU who try to re-write history. It’s way funny how the conservatives gnash their teeth at ‘big brother’, NOW. But, were perfectly okeedokee to have them monitor ALL communications via phone and internet back in the W days. Truly paaaathetic….

Al Gore

May 17th, 2010
3:07 pm

Splavistic…You are so naive as to beleive that global warming is a myth.

George Washington

May 17th, 2010
5:21 pm

What makes America a great country is that we are a nation of laws instead of a nation based on the collective opinion.

Freedom works…

George Washington

May 17th, 2010
5:26 pm

Bob Barr should never allow the “teabagger” word in his blogs. It is a negative sexual slur. The other moderators on will not publish comments from those who feel the need to hurl that word around.

Mr Barr, with all due respect – You need to cut that BS off now.

Anybody can hate all they want but this is a public forum designed for adult discussions. Please moderate it as such.

George Jefferson

May 17th, 2010
7:01 pm

GW, We are not a nation of laws, and the laws reflect the collective opinions of a handful special interests. I commend your desire to keep this forum adult in content, but the nation of laws fairy tale doesn’t mean much after middle school Social Studies class.


May 17th, 2010
8:55 pm

“You can’t fault Bloomberg for wanting to keep his city safe knowing all those tea party types that don’t like the healthcare bill running around.”

@Bob, do you really think that Tea Partiers (more peaceful than hippies) are more of a danger to your well being than people that want to disarm you and place video cameras to surveillance you 24-7? Really?


May 19th, 2010
11:57 pm

Where are our civil liberties when Big Brother decides to monitor all our moves. But again NY has its obligations to protect it’s citizens. Glad I don’t live in NY. I think the residents of this small town I live in would be all up in arms if the mayor said we needed more surveillance cameras around the place.

Mike Mahoney

May 30th, 2010
3:21 pm

Party affiliations mean little. Bloomberg is a leftist and leftists hate guns, if they do not own them, and love to surveil everyone else so that they have control. Bloomberg is on the leading edge of the new left movement. Oink oink. Bloomberg understands what I mean.