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The Surveillance State in Providence

RI Report today offers an enterprising and intriguing look at the local manifestation of the surveillance state in Providence:

If you’ve ever been in Providence and felt like you’re being watched, chances are you are.

A recent survey of the Downcity and lower College Hill area of Providence conducted by RIReport revealed 122 private and government surveillance cameras monitoring city sidewalks and streets. That number does not include police traffic light cameras which are not continuously operated or cameras mounted inside private or government buildings.  

However, according to the Providence Police Department, the city does maintain eight traffic light cameras operating within the Downcity and College Hill area and at least 17 more throughout the city bringing the total number of government closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras within RIReport’s survey area to 130.

Translated into more Rhode Island terms, that’s four surveillance cameras for every one coffee shop in Downcity Providence. That’s according to a survey conducted by the Providence Journal, which in recently reporting on the number of coffee shops in Downcity counted thirty outposts to choose from.

That number places Providence, with a population of approximately 179,000 ahead of a 2003 CCTV survey of Boston which boasts a population of over 595,000, and well above other medium-sized New England cities such as New Haven, CT.

. . . .

So where are you most likely to be caught on candid camera?

Among the most monitored areas in the city is in the vicinity surrounding Providence City Hall . With sixteen private and government cameras facing the RIPTA bus terminal and another twenty within a two block radius, Kennedy Plaza easily ranks as the city’s most closely watched area.

Top honors for a single building goes to the Kennedy Plaza Post Office which has 10 street facing cameras in addition to 7 more of determinable operability on its Memorial Boulevard exposure.

Across the plaza, Providence City Hall is well fortified with nine cameras lining its exterior, while the Federal Courthouse comes in with only three mounted units.

Around the corner, the Federal Center on Westminster Street and Feinstein Building on Washington both boast multiple cameras on their facades while the Biltmore keeps an eye on its corner with the help of three elevated units.

The Providence Journal keeps a watchful eye on Rhode Island ’s news while the six cameras on its Fountain Street building keep a watchful eye on passer byes. The Journal’s fountain street fortress represents one of the city’s most heavily monitored private buildings and easily trumps its cross street neighbor 40 Fountain Street, home of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission, which lacks any visible CCTV units.

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