Brooklyn, NY – Among the hundreds of New York City police security cameras installed throughout the city are three in front of the Brooklyn home of Chief of Department Joseph Esposito, according to police sources.
Esposito, the highest-ranking uniformed member of the department, lives on a quiet block that residents say is virtually devoid of crime and trouble, other than the occasional rowdy teenager.
Police sources said the cameras – two aimed at his property and one that can rotate and capture images farther up the block – were set up as a precaution and not because the chief had received any legitimate death threats.
Esposito referred questions to the NYPD’s press office. Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said it is the department’s policy not to discuss security matters.
“It’s there because of who he is,” one source said. “Just in case.”
But that, according to one government watchdog group, raises questions about how the NYPD uses its resources and determines where the cameras are placed.
Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, said it’s important such decisions are made carefully, with an eye to maximize resources without compromising safety.
“These decisions are often not made on a ‘Let’s balance the pros and cons basis,'” she said. “If we put a camera there, we’re not putting one over there, where all these robberies are. These are questions that need to be addressed.”
One high-ranking police source, however, said the cameras in front of Esposito’s home are not among the 505 being placed at a cost of $9.1 million throughout the city to fight crime.
Esposito is highly visible, often seen at the side of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly during news briefings and known to respond at all hours of the day and night to major incidents.
Kelly has a camera outside his apartment door in the Battery Park City building where he lives, and there is a stepped-up police response whenever officers from the First Precinct respond there, regardless of the nature of the call.
It was unclear if any other police officials have cameras outside their homes.
One politician who does, city Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., said one was installed in front of his Astoria home because someone opposed to his public denouncements of graffiti put his address on a Web site and encouraged taggers to vandalize his property.
Esposito’s public stature warrants a camera, Vallone said.
“I trust the police to accurately assess the likelihood of potential harm against its own members,” says Vallone, chairman of the council’s Public Safety Committee.
Kelly has touted cameras as an important tool in fighting crime and preventing terrorism, but groups such as the New York Civil Liberties Union have raised privacy concerns and said the NYPD has not fully explained how it would prevent abuses.
The NYCLU asserts that cameras are not the deterrent police believe them to be and that the NYPD pushed through the initiative without public feedback.