The New Orleans City Council recently proposed an ordinance, No. 32-107, that would put the city’s already-intrusive surveillance apparatus on steroids, subjecting New Orleanians to near-constant monitoring of their daily lives.

While presented as an innocuous measure to reduce crime, this heavy-handed government surveillance mandate would impose exorbitant costs, violate the constitutional right to privacy, undermine trust with the community and have a chilling effect on our public spaces – without reducing crime or making the city safer.

Here are five reasons why this surveillance mandate would be harmful to New Orleans.

First, video surveillance on this scale would threaten New Orleanians’ constitutional rights to privacy and personal autonomy by sweeping up information on everyone who walks in or near a restaurant, bar, or corner store anywhere in the city – from Lakeview to the Lower Ninth.

Second, video surveillance has not been proven to be effective. In Oakland, Calif., Police Chief Joseph Samuels, Jr. concluded that “...there is no conclusive way to establish that the presence of video surveillance cameras resulted in the prevention or reduction of crime.”

Third, surveillance technologies are shown to have a disparate racial impact, with Black people more likely to be misidentified as suspects and disproportionately placed under surveillance. We need to be finding ways to reduce racial disparities in our criminal justice system, not exacerbate them.

Fourth, putting everyone under constant video monitoring would have a chilling effect on our public life ­– stifling New Orleans’ vibrant, free-wheeling atmosphere that draws millions of visitors to our city each year.

Finally, this intrusive government surveillance scheme would also threaten to undo much of the progress that’s been made to strengthen the bonds of trust between the  community and the police. Government surveillance encourages police to treat everyone like a suspect – instead of a citizen they’re sworn to protect and serve.

New Orleanians do not deserve to bear such an astronomical cost to their privacy in exchange for uncertain benefits.  The City Council should reject this massive expansion of government surveillance and adopt more sensible approaches to keeping our communities safe. 

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