July 29, 2007 — -- Crime-fighting beats privacy in public places: Americans, by nearly a 3-to-1 margin, support the increased use of surveillance cameras — a measure decried by some civil libertarians, but credited in London with helping to catch a variety of perpetrators since the early 1990s.
Given the chief arguments, pro and con — a way to help solve crimes vs. too much of a government intrusion on privacy — it isn't close: 71 percent of Americans favor the increased use of surveillance cameras, while 25 percent oppose it.
London's surveillance network, known as the "Ring of Steel," is said to have aided in the capture of suspects, including those accused of a pair of attempted car bombings in June.
A similar system is coming to New York City, which plans 100 new surveillance cameras in downtown Manhattan by year's end and 3,000 — public and private — by 2010. Chicago and Baltimore plan expanded surveillance systems as well.
Critics, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, have opposed such systems, arguing that they invade privacy, and could be used to track innocent people.
Nonetheless, majority support for surveillance cameras crosses political, ideological and population groups, albeit with differences in degree.
Seniors are most apt to support the increased use of these cameras, with under-30s, least so; Republicans more than Democrats; women more than men; higher educated people more than the less educated; and whites more than African-Americans.
Through a political lens, support for increased use of surveillance systems is lowest, 62 percent, among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who support Barack Obama for president — and highest of all, 86 percent, among Republicans who support Rudy Giuliani, who made his name as New York City's crime-fighting mayor.