The Most Spied Upon Cities in the World

Is your city spying on you?
Is your city spying on you?

With passing years, most cities around the world have had a transformation in the surveillance and police monitoring sector. The ever-improving technology has aided the development of sophisticated systems that have helped in crime prevention and terrorism fighting. Surveillance cameras have been fitted to most public places and on buildings to keep track of whatever could be happening and suspicious scenes noted and addressed.

Some cities are however more spied than others. This fact is proved by the number of cameras fitted on its streets, public transport and even buildings. Private agencies have also installed surveillance cameras that help in their daily transaction such emergency response.

5. Chongqing, China

The skyline of Chongqing.

Chongqing began a plan in 2012 to install over 500,000 cameras, all with the aim of crime detection. This highly computerized network can be managed by only one network. This sophisticated system will also be used in rescue operations during emergencies. The government of China has helped in expanding the resources given to police in aiding online surveillance. Should this program be completed, Chongqing will be under more surveillance than any other city in the world. For now, it maintains fifth place in the list of the world's most spied upon cities.

4. New York

The New York skyline.

The fourth most spied city in the world is New York. The city has one of the most sophisticated surveillance systems in the entire United States, the development of which was motivated by the 9/11 attacks on the city. The New York Police Department (NYPD) has also extensively used surveillance in fighting crime. NYPD in 2012 developed a surveillance dashboard known as “Domain Awareness System” that brought together information from all the department’s resources into one user-friendly dashboard. The forces commanders can access this information on desktops. This has helped in fighting terrorism. The number of surveillance cameras in the city is about 6,000. The NYPD has deployed license plate readers that capture photographs of all cars that travel in and out of the city.

NYPD officials are working with Microsoft developers to improve the surveillance program with the introduction of the smart cameras that are able to detect suspicious behaviors like packages that are not attended or a vehicle that drives around a particular building repeatedly. NYPD have been able to solve lots of crimes by the use of a DAS (Distributed Antenna System).

3. Chicago

The Chicago skyline.

Chicago is the city with the most surveillance in the United States, ahead of New York City. It is also the third most spied-on city in the world. Thousands of cameras in the city have been linked to buildings, street poles, skyscrapers, in busses and train tunnels that cover most parts of the city. These cameras are watched by officials in command centers, squad cars, and the police stations. Authorities have used these cameras in responding to emergencies and has been really so efficient.

Cameras have also help to record the transactions of drug deals, crime, murder incidence and even estate thefts. An estimate of about 10,000 cameras are installed on schools, public places, and emergency centers.

According to the Chicago police, the arrests made in 2006 by the help of these cameras numbered at more than 4,000. Among the crime that was caught on camera included drug sale and weapon offence robberies. The police have linked the installation of cameras with a reduction in crime.

Critics of the surveillance have always pointed out that the cameras are invading people’s privacy and citing situations that the police could use the cameras for their own private interests.

2. Beijing

View of the Beijing CBD.

All parts of Beijing are monitored by police video surveillance. The surveillance system is part of the Chinese monitoring system known as the “Skynet” that was launched in 2005. The city also has their own cameras that are also used in the surveillance of its residents. In 2015, the city had over 46,000 police surveillance cameras and over 43,000 police monitoring them. Other officers are still deployed to ground monitor bus stations, crowded places, and parks. The extensive surveillance has helped the police in fighting crime. According to the report by police in 2015, more than 1,500 had been dealt with by the help of the surveillance.

Beijing is a model for video surveillance in China and other cities have begun to follow suit. The extent of Beijing’s vast camera surveillance was witnessed in 2015 during the Chinese National Day Holidays, 8 million people were successfully monitored over only four days. The police have said that the cameras have helped in fighting a lot of crime as in the same year, over 5.5 million people had been interrogated in the street by the police.

1. London

A view of London's skyline.

London is the most spied-on city in the world. Numerous CCTV cameras have been placed across the city to help reduce the crime rates in the city. Cameras are placed on lampposts, buildings, train stations, and on main roads. According to the estimation by the Big Brother Watch (BBW), there are approximately 51,000 cameras that are run by the police to help watch citizens in the capital. According to a civil rights group called Liberty, on average a Londoner is captured on camera about 300 times daily. According to BBW, 20% of the world’s CCTV cameras are found in Britain. The numerous cameras help the police in solving crimes, managing traffic congestion, and even during accidents for the rescue teams. There have, however, been concerns as to whether these cameras have really helped in reducing crimes as evident by numerous crimes witnessed. BBW activists have been advocating for the governmental implementation of effective guidelines for the new code of conduct for the CCTV users.

It is critical to point out that many believe it is unethical to spy on someone’s private life. There is also claim that police and other agencies using these cameras have a tendency of using it for their private interest. City surveillance remains a complicated, controversial topic.


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