Steve Chapman argues that surveillance cameras are overrated:
Leave aside those airy privacy concerns for the moment. Installing, maintaining, and monitoring thousands of these devices, as in New York and Chicago, costs millions of dollars. Absent cameras, that money could be spent on beat cops, patrol cars, forensic equipment, jail cells, you name it. The point of any law enforcement tool is not just to do some good but also to do some good at a reasonable cost compared with the alternatives. It's by no means clear that surveillance cameras even come close to meeting that standard.
He points to a 2005 report by the British government concluding that its four million cameras "produced no overall effect" on crime. Carol Rose came to the same conclusion regarding the latest bomb scare:
New York City's "steel ring" of 3,000 surveillance cameras (including 82 in Times Square alone) played virtually no role in capturing the alleged bad guy, according to New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. Instead, it was a couple of alert citizens, responsive cops on the street, effective police detectives following a trail of low-tech clues -- VIN numbers, house keys and a cell phone number that Shahzad gave to the woman he bought the truck from -- that helped nab Shahzad before he escaped to Dubai.
However, while the man in the surveillance footage ended up not being Shahzad, publicizing it as such "may have had the effect of falsely reassuring the real suspect that he wasn't a target," according to the AP.