Big Brother Comes of Age

But law enforcement maintains that public surveillance cameras keep the public safe. The New York Police Department says they work well, but it's reluctant to give details, for fear of jeopardizing their effectiveness.

“This isn’t the type of thing, we’re going to want to talk about,” says police spokesman Detective Walter Burnes.

In Baltimore, Tom Yager, a former police officer now working with a coalition of police, business and community members to set up surveillance systems as a crime deterrent, says cameras “make [the public] feel comfortable.”

Still, not every municipality is quite so gung-ho.

In Private Hands

In Oakland, Calif., only businesses and apartment owners — and not police — have direct control of surveillance cameras. Police only view footage after a crime has been committed and reported.

Even there, though, residents could soon unwittingly have their images captured.

City Council aide Frank Rose says Oakland has had so much success with cameras that a surveillance program for illegal dumping is in the works.

ABCNEWS’ Paul Eng and Andrew Colton contributed to this report.

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