Beverly Hills is One of the Most Surveilled Cities in the World

Surveillance is part of a broader plan to become a ”smart city” where technology will capture visitors’ and residents’ every move

Beverly Hills is already ringed with security cameras, a coordinated attempt to protect its wealthy residents as well as the high-end shops and stores it is known for. There are currently 2,000 closed-circus cameras in downtown and residential Beverly Hills, reports the Los Angeles Times—one for every 17 people. This makes the wealthy enclave of just 32,500 into one the most surveilled cities in the world “alongside London and Beijing,” according to statistics compiled by Comparitech.

Additionally, another layer of surveillance covers the vehicles: cameras that capture cars sailing through red lights, plus “drones and dozens of devices that can read license plates and automatically check them against law enforcement databases to find unregistered plates or stolen vehicles.”

While it seems like Beverly Hills is sufficiently protected, the city has doubled-down on security. At a City Council meeting in 2020, it agreed to not only purchase 200 more security cameras, but also to enact a five-year, $14 million plan from Assistant City Manager Nancy Hunt-Coffey that would buy 900 more cameras and other tools, according to the Times. City officials also set aside $7.4 million in cyber-security upgrades that year.

Opponents argue that all those cameras could have a chilling effect on civil liberties.

“When you are in a heavily surveilled environment, the definition of wrong magically expands; people start to become much narrower about what becomes acceptable behavior,” Shobita Parthasarathy, director of the Science, Technology and Public Policy program at the University of Michigan, told the Times. “And so there are all kinds of things that could become the domain of the criminal justice system.”

The increase in surveillance is part of a larger plan to make Beverly Hills into a “smart city” where “data on many aspects of residents’ and visitors’ lives are collected and analyzed to address common urban challenges such as traffic, sanitation and public safety.”

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