D.C. Consolidates Camera System to Boost Public Safety

In an effort to increase public safety, Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty has recently announced the launch of a consolidated closed-circuit TV monitoring system to serve the entire city.

Under the new program, the city’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency will monitor approximately 5,200 cameras around D.C. The new system does not involve the installation of additional cameras to new locations, but rather a centralization of the cameras already in use by several different D.C. agencies.

According to the press release from the office of the mayor, “It is expected that the Video Interoperability for Public Safety program will reduce the cost to monitor the city’s CCTV cameras by one third, improve command and control interoperability for all hazards and greatly enhance the city’s capability to fight and prevent crime.”

At the present time, nine different agencies monitor the cameras for their own purposes, said Jo’Ellen Countee, public information officer for the HSEMA. Under the new system, HSEMA will take over full monitoring responsibilities, increasing situational awareness through day-to-day monitoring as well as during emergencies.

“Cameras located outside of Nationals Park allowed us to monitor the size of crowds and flow of traffic from our Emergency Operations Center, giving us enhanced situational awareness,” Countee added.

The move was precipitated not only by the desire for more situational awareness, she said, but also the cost savings that are expected to result from centralization of the camera monitoring.

The centralization will take effect by Dec. 31.

– Brad Pollina

Ex-Inmate Condemns Capital Punishment

An exonerated inmate from death row spoke about his frustrations with the justice system and called for an end to capital punishment in a lecture held in the Walsh building yesterday.

“The system is broken, crying out for justice, and we, the people, need to call out for change,” said Harold Wilson, the 122nd exonerated death row inmate in the country. “We need a moratorium on the death penalty. Host a speaker at your school, church and temple. Be the voice of hope for the men and women who no longer have a voice.”

Wilson was acquitted of triple murder in Philadelphia in 2005 after 16 years of incarceration.

He detailed at length his struggles before, during and after his time on death row. Court-appointed attorneys and biased juries deprived him of a fair trial, he said, leading to his wrongful conviction and sentencing. He took it upon himself to better understand the legal system.

“I spent all my time in the law library. I learned about my cases. I went to about 50 lawyers for help, but they all turned me down,” he said.

Wilson also highlighted the poor prison conditions that contributed to the deterioration of his mental and physical health. When finally acquitted, he was set free into a society from which he had been isolated for nearly two decades.

“On November 16, 2005, I was acquitted of all charges and I was released out the back door of the county jail with 65 cents and a bus token,” Wilson said.

An advocate for the abolishment of the death penalty, Wilson urged his audience to use their role as taxpayers to influence legislation on capital punishment and the compensation of exonerated individuals.

He said he is now serving as a speaker for the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and a board member of Witness to Innocence. He also said he plans to start the Harold C. Wilson Foundation to offer services for individuals reentering society, including job placement and housing.

The event was sponsored by Prisoner Outreach, the Center for Social Justice and the Diversity Action Council.

– Amelia Salutz

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