It's hard enough to get public support for municipal security projects without giving people good reason to reject it. When I read this story about the mess New Orleans has made of its surveillance project, I couldn't help but cringe.
In mid-October, the New Orleans Inspector General released a report that found that 41 of 211 cameras, fewer than one in five, actually worked. A review of the program's finances from May 2009 through April 2010 revealed the city paid nearly $190,000 for equipment it never received and another $200,000 that didn't go through proper approvals.
That's not good.
But, this isn't the first time there has been a problem with the city project. In March 2009, the inspector general found that $4 million had been wasted in association with the city's video surveillance project. The 2009 investigation launched a criminal probe and led to the indictment of the technology chief of the city as well as the contractor who sold the city the cameras, reported the paper.
These findings have prompted Mayor Mitch Landrieu to stop paying for the crime-camera program, which may have cost the city as much as $10 million since 2003 with little crime-fighting impact, according to the publication.
But is that really the best solution? Scrapping the whole project means the city has really wasted that money, whereas it may be quite possible that the system can be salvaged and it can be a useful tool for police. There are plenty of other cities that have implemented strong surveillance systems and found them to be quite beneficial for fighting and deterring crime.
And just to be clear, this isn't a failure of technology. I would chalk this up to irresponsible leadership and poor project management on the part of vendors and stakeholders. If nothing else, this is a good example for other municipal security leaders about how NOT to run a project. Geez, New Orleans, stop making everyone else look bad.