Freedom Watch


Davis: Arm Us With Cameras, Drones


By John Zaremba, Dave Wedge
April 30, 2013

From The Boston Herald

Original article available here

Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis is pushing for a city-run system of eye-level street surveillance technology and making a case for a dedicated NYPD-style anti-terrorism unit to protect Boston from another soft-target strike like the deadly marathon bombing.

“We need to harden our target here,” Davis told the Herald. “We need to make sure terrorists understand that if they’re thinking about coming here, we have certain things in place that would make that not a good idea. Because they could hit any place. They’re going to go for the softest, easiest thing to hit.”

Davis’ push for stepped-up security came as the youngest of the three people killed in Monday’s twin blasts, 8-year-old Martin Richard of Dorchester, was laid to rest in a private funeral. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, faces capital charges for the terror plot after he and his brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, allegedly infiltrated the finish-line crowd of thousands, unloaded two backpacks containing pressure cooker bombs and detonated them. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed after a shootout with police in Watertown.

“We need to gather all the information we can as to what happened and make a determination as to the overall commitment the city of Boston has to the threat of terrorism,” Davis said. “That’s very, very important to me. It’s very important to the mayor. I’m sure there will be a lot of questions about that.”

Davis said he would also consider deploying domestic reconnaissance drones to hover above next year’s Boston Marathon.

“Drones are a great idea. I don’t know that would be the first place I’d invest money, but certainly to cover an event like this, and have an eye in the sky that would be much cheaper to run than a helicopter is a really good idea,” he said.

The use of domestic surveillance drones to hunt terrorists in U.S. cities has been hotly debated, but yesterday New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said they were all but inevitable.

Davis said he’s envisioning a partnership between the city and businesses to buy and monitor lower-mounted cameras positioned more strategically to capture people’s faces. He said he has no cost estimate, and that he’s not sure whether he will request additional money or find it within the budget.

“There are people talking about it right now. I think that’s one of the things that we just need to put a comprehensive plan together, to be in good position in the future,” Davis said.

City Council President Stephen J. Murphy said he favors more cameras in the city, saying they helped capture the bloodthirsty bombers. He said federal Homeland Security money has been dwindling and suggested the city give tax breaks to businesses that install surveillance gear.

Glenn Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor and frequent critic of government surveillance, said Davis may be giving cameras too much credit. “The record of cameras in catching terrorists has really been pretty lousy,” Reynolds said. “If in fact they caught these guys through the cameras, it’s pretty much the first time.”