I don’t like to comment on rumors of legislation – the devil is always in the details – but what I’ve heard about the proposed ordinance regarding Project Green Light is so bad, so scary bad, that I feel compelled to write about it now. As reported, the ordinance would require every business in the City open after 10:00 pm to participate in Project Green Light (“PGL”). If you haven’t heard, PGL is surveillance system that uses HD video cameras and police “monitoring”.
This is a bad, bad idea. I mean seriously bad. It’s bad for practical reasons. It’s bad for policy reasons. It’s bad for legal reasons. In fact, it’s so bad that it’s going to take me several posts to cover all the badness oozing from it like pus from an open wound.
But before I start, let me explain why I’m so worried. Last year I actively supported the community benefit ordinance that was proposal A on the 2016 November ballot. There were issues with both proposals and I welcomed an honest debate on the issues. Unfortunately, a few members of Detroit City Council and their surrogates didn’t believe in honest debate. In the end, Proposal B prevailed (54% to 46%), but I was more disappointed by the number of times I had to check folks on flat-out, bald-faced lies than I was by the result. Some politicians put the truth aside to get the results Mayor Duggan and big business wanted. I’m concerned that will happen again.
So let’s start with what PGL is and what it is not. According to their website, “Project Green Light Detroit is the first public-private-community partnership of its kind, blending a mix of real-time crime-fighting and community policing aimed at improving neighborhood safety, promoting the revitalization and growth of local businesses, and strengthening DPD’s efforts to deter, identify, and solve crime.” A worthy goal.
The City estimates the cost of participating in PGL at $4,000 – $6,000. That is how much it cost for a business to put in place:
- At least 4 HD video cameras (at least 1080p). The police determine where the cameras go. They must capture the face of everyone entering and the license plates of all vehicles.
- Lighting, sufficient to capture images day or night, installed by a DPD and City approved installer.
- Signage, including wall signs, flag signs, and decals, installed by a DPD and City approved installer.
- High speed internet connection capable of consistently producing upload speeds at all times of at least ten (10) megabytes per second.
- Cloud-related subscription services to connect the cameras to DPD’s surveillance software provider; and
- Storage sufficient to hold 30 days of HD video.
“You can join this program for $995 down, with a cost of about $140/month for digital storage and a lease of camera equipment.”
In exchange, PGL “Partners” get this promise: “This MOU does not oblige DPD to monitor the Entity’s cameras at any time.”
Yep, everything you’ve heard about “real-time video surveillance” and “real-time crime fighting” and a commitment “to effectively receive, monitor, and analyze video feeds” is nothing but hype. Maybe for the 8 original partners the cameras were actually monitored. That was then. Going forward that’s impossible if you make every business – large and small – participate in the program.
Oh, did I mention that the DPD actually wants to expand PGL to include “schools, multi-family dwellings, and mixed-use developments”? Yep, check out Paragraph C of the Partnership Agreement.
Instead of actual live monitoring, what PGL partners get is (drum roll)…
- A promise to use “best efforts” to monitor the cameras if a 911 call is placed;
- Meetings with the precinct captain; and
- Upon request, special patrols by DPD.
That’s it. I’m not making this up; it is Article II (Responsibilities of DPD) of the Partnership Agreement.
So now you see that the City and DPD are misleading the public about how Project Green Light actually works. Want to hear something else to give you pause? The City and DPD are doing the same when they talk about what Project Green Light has actually accomplished. I’ll break that down for you in my next post.