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Co-opted surveillance system nabs reckless driver

Published by Jennifer on May 3, 2007 12:52 PM

Police in Brooklyn, NY have used a surveillance system once used by criminals to track activities around their hideout to incriminate a drunk driver responsible for a tragic accident on Monday.

A high-tech network of surveillance cameras, formally used by neighborhood criminals, were instrumental in solving the case, claim authorities. The cameras were converted to be used for law enforcement and monitoring after the criminal operation was broken up by federal agents.

Melvin Morales, 34, was driving in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn when he struck 18 year old Anthony Delgado, on his bike. Mr. Morales fled the scene, where Mr. Delgado died. Two police officers were coincidentally at the scene, and attempted to apprehend Mr. Morales, finding him several blocks away. At the scene, paint from Mr. Delgado's bike was found on Mr. Delgado's car. Morales, who was identified as being under the influence of alcohol, was charged with Delgado's death. Surveillance footage, from the co-opted network near the intersection where the accident occurred, was later used to identify Mr. Morales as the responsible driver in the accident. He is now awaiting trial.

This is an unusual instance of municipal video surveillance. Instead of the cameras being installed by New York City authorities, the cameras were turned over to the city after being seized by authorities. In New York, a city currently mired in a debate over the legality public surveillance cameras, where do these fall? Do police and federal authorities have the ability to turn confiscated private surveillance cameras into public property?

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