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Washington Eyes Adding Thousands of Surveillance Cameras

Security agency centralized the video feeds from more than 4,500 cameras.

Washington, D.C. is seeking to add thousands of surveillance cameras operated by private businesses around the District of Columbia, and the subway system, to the thousands of video cameras already in place, according to published reports.

Washington’s local Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA) has centralized the video feeds from more than 4,500 cameras operated by D.C.’s Department of Transportation and its school system. Those feeds are monitored constantly at the agency’s Joint All-Hazards Operation Center.

The plan is to link the thousands of cameras being monitored into a single system called “Video Interoperability for Public Safety.” When the nearly $1 million system is activated, its capabilities will include:

  • Providing images from security cameras near where the police department’s “Shot Spotter” system detects gunfire.
  • Detecting whether a vehicle is traveling the wrong way down a one-way street.
  • Identifying abandoned objects such as bags.

The current program does not include video surveillance from private businesses, but a HSEMA plan for 2011 says the agency seeks to centralize cameras at private businesses and those run by the Metro (the subway system) and the D.C. Housing Authority. However, the plan does not have a timeline, says HSEMA officials.