The Tampa “Smart CCTV” Experiment


  • Kelly Gates Communication, University of California, San Diego, USA



CCTV, Smart CCTV, smart surveillance, video surveillance, facial recognition technology, police technology, police power


In June 2001, a neighborhood in Tampa, Florida called Ybor City became the first urban area in the United States to be fitted with a “Smart CCTV” system. Visionics Corporation began a project with the Tampa Police Department to incorporate the company’s facial recognition technology (FRT), called FaceIt, into an existing 36-camera CCTV system covering several blocks along two of the main avenues. However, this “smart surveillance” experiment did not go as smoothly as its planners had hoped. After a two-year free trial period, the TPD abandoned the effort to integrate facial recognition with the CCTV system in August 2003, citing its failure to identify a single wanted individual. This essay chronicles the experiment with FRT in Ybor City and argues that the project’s failure should not be viewed as solely a technical one. Most significantly, the failure of the Ybor City “Smart CCTV” experiment reveals the extent to which new surveillance technologies represent sites of struggle over the extent and limits of police power in advanced liberal democracies.


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Theme: Surveillance