Phoenix police unveil new security cameras ahead of Super Bowl LVII

Many of these security cameras have been in place since 2008; they’ve just been recently upgraded in time for the Super Bowl.
Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 9:18 PM MST|Updated: Feb. 6, 2023 at 9:31 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- If you’ve been in downtown Phoenix this week, you’ve probably seen them. They’re on top of pretty much any city building. Security cameras pointed towards downtown roads.

The cameras only capture video; there’s no audio involved. They’re meant to better keep track of what’s happening downtown, but some question whether they’re the best use of police resources. “There is no facial recognition that is used with any of this technology,” Phoenix Police Commander Brian Lee said.

Lee says the primary focus of the downtown security cameras isn’t to search for people doing something wrong. Instead, it’s to help make sure any downtown activities go smoothly. “We use them to be able to give us real-time information when we’re operating in a command environment,” he said.

Many of these security cameras have been in place since 2008; they’ve just been recently upgraded in time for the Super Bowl to have better video quality. Lee says that, in turn, will better monitor car and pedestrian patterns.

Phoenix civil rights attorney Benjamin Taylor says since the cameras are monitoring public places, the city’s doing nothing wrong by using them for surveillance purposes. “Because this is out in the open, and there are going to be many people there,” Taylor said. “That’s why these cameras are allowed and are legal.”

But Taylor says if using these cameras transforms into invading a person’s Fourth Amendment rights, which protect against unreasonable search and seizure, that’s a different story. “Usually under the law, you need a warrant or some sort of cause to search a person,” he said.

Taylor says if Phoenix police use these cameras inappropriately, a judge could throw out any criminal case where the video was being used. He also says the police department could face a civil lawsuit for violating someone’s rights.

As for those currently walking under the downtown Phoenix cameras, there are different perspectives on how they feel about them. “I’d prefer to have the security than to worry about anybody intruding on me,” Gilbert resident Melanie Santana. “Because I don’t have anything to hide.” “I think that’s a small portion of a larger problem with the overenforcement and hyper-surveillance that happens here,” Phoenix resident Dimas said.

Arizona’s Family reached out to Phoenix police to try and learn some more specific information about how these cameras are used and if they’ll continue to be used after the Super Bowl, but they were unavailable for comment.