Brave New World

By Stephen Kinzer, New York Times

Chicago - A highly advanced system of video surveillance that Chicago officials plan to install by 2006 will make people here some of the most closely observed in the world. Mayor Richard M. Daley says it will also make them much safer. "Cameras are the equivalent of hundreds of sets of eyes," Mr. Daley said when he unveiled the new project this month. "They''re the next best thing to having police officers stationed at every potential trouble spot." Police specialists here can already monitor live footage from about 2,000 surveillance cameras around the city, so the addition of 250 cameras under the mayor''s new plan is not a great jump. The way these cameras will be used, however, is an extraordinary technological leap. Sophisticated new computer programs will immediately alert the police whenever anyone viewed by any of the cameras placed at buildings and other structures considered terrorist targets wanders aimlessly in circles, lingers outside a public building, pulls a car onto the shoulder of a highway, or leaves a package and walks away from it. Images of those people will be highlighted in color at the city''s central monitoring station, allowing dispatchers to send police officers to the scene immediately. Officials here designed the system after studying the video surveillance network in London, which became a world leader in this technology during the period when Irish terrorists were active. The Chicago officials also studied systems used in Las Vegas casinos, as well as those used by Army combat units. The system they have devised, they say, will be the most sophisticated in the United States and perhaps the world.