Mayor Daley and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano tour the Office of Emergency Management and Communications on Thursday. He wants to add more cameras. (Keith Hale/Sun-Times)
Homeland Security head praises city’s security cameras
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Thursday ranked Chicago’s Big Brother network of well over 10,000 public and private surveillance cameras as one of the nation’s most extensive and integrated — and Mayor Daley wants to make it even bigger.
“Expansion of cameras citywide is one of the highest priorities that will help us here in the city of Chicago,” Daley said with Napolitano at his side.
“Cameras are the key. They are a deterrent. They solve crimes. It deals with terrorism. It deals with gangs, guns and drugs in our society.”
After touring the 911 emergency center that doubles as a clearinghouse for surveillance video, Napolitano pronounced Chicago’s “very robust camera infrastructure” among the “top two or three” in the nation. Asked to identify rivals, she named only New York City.
“It’s not just cameras, but they are inter-connected and then connected back here so they can really be utilized to target resources where they need to go and to tell first-responders what they’re going to be confronting,” she said.
Pressed on whether the ever-expanding network is a good thing, the secretary said, “Absolutely. If you look at cities around the world — like London, for example, [and] Madrid has been employing more cameras — they are deterrents. But, they are also force-multipliers and they enable us to make the best use of our first-responders.”
Unlike so many other Cabinet secretaries who visit Chicago, Napolitano said, “I did not come on this trip bearing checks.” But, she said she took “careful notes” on Chicago’s needs.
Daley refused to reveal specifics of the wish list he delivered to Napolitano.
But, he once again made it a point to tout the $217 million 911 center that opened in 1995, after massive cost overruns.
“Remember, we had the vision and the foresight and the stamina to build this. Very few cities ever combined their fire and police department and emergency under one roof. We have done this. Very few cities, not only in the United States, but the world have done that,” he said.
Every year, Daley uses the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to pronounce Chicago as safe as any major city can possibly be.
Approaching the ninth anniversary, Napolitano agreed.
“In a world where we cannot eliminate all risks, Chicagoans can be confident that every effort that I know of that can be made is being made to minimize the risk. And if something were to happen, their first-responders are prepared,” she said.
In a news release distributed at the press conference, Daley also announced that the Department of Homeland Security has decided to assign a “full-time liason” to Chicago. The mayor’s chief-of-staff Ray Orozco, a former fire commissioner, already serves on a Homeland Security Task Force. That’s an elite group of first-responders charged with evaluating the national strategy on emergency preparedness.