Understanding the Intensity of Community Surveillance In Brooklyn Through Public Datasets

Project Sponsor


How do we quantify the intensity of surveillance that neighborhoods across Brooklyn are subjected to by the presence of surveillance cameras? Which communities are disproportionately impacted by this surveillance load? While the indicator variable is surveillance cameras for this research, we hope to develop a more general methodology that can be applied to other datasets describing other forms of surveillance technology – like facial recognition, geolocation tracking, or body-worn cameras – in the future.

Category: Urban Infrastructure

Project Description & Overview

This analysis will allow BDS and the capstone project team to quantify the burdens imposed on an area by video surveillance using a score that can be assigned to different neighborhoods based on how frequently the use of surveillance is observed there. BDS will provide the capstone project team with datasets describing the locations of thousands of both police-operated and private security cameras.

This project will involve synthesis of that data with public-sector datasets, like the American Community Survey to understand the communities impacted by surveillance. The research will provide an overview of both the breadth and depth of each of the technologies analyzed, incorporating spatial analysis to understand their use and distribution within Brooklyn. Presenting the results as an interactive map will draw on GIS techniques and cartography; interpreting the results for the public and policymakers will involve students’ knowledge of civil rights and public policy.


Surveillance Data

Two public datasets speak to the locations of cameras in Brooklyn:

  • Amnesty International’s crowdsourced dataset of surveillance camera locations and the NYPD’s own disclosures about surveillance technologies, will provide additional context for our own observations.
  • The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project’s Hikvision Camera Census provides another dataset, while only covering a very small fraction of the private cameras in use, nevertheless shows approximate locations and distribution patterns for over 16,000 cameras identified.

Public-Sector Data

Census data from the American Community will be used to identify key demographic information about the neighborhoods affected by video surveillance and building and land use data from the NYC Department of City Planning’s PLUTO database will provide further context to that census data.


– GIS & Spatial analysis
– Quantitative Research
– Statistical programming (R, Python, etc)
– Data Visualization & Cartography
– Privacy & Civil Rights
– Public Policy & Law

Learning Outcomes & Deliverables

– A metric that quantifies the intensity of surveillance that can be used to identify the most and least impacted communities across Brooklyn
– Interactive map of Brooklyn displaying impact of surveillance on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis
– Website with key analysis takeaways to inform the public and policymakers about the scope and intensity of police surveillance