Ohio is shelving plans for a network that would have linked thousands of cameras to monitor roads, schools and businesses in an effort to provide more eyes during emergencies, the state's new Homeland Security director says.
The $234,000 Camera Integration Project would have been accessible by police, firefighters and other authorized officials to get a quick view of what's going on during major incidents. A legislative panel that approves large state government purchases approved a contract for the system last year.
The network, modeled after a similar system in Alabama, had limited uses and there are better and more widely beneficial ways to spend the money needed to create the camera network, said Ohio Homeland Security director Rob Glenn.
"The best way to use that money is actually to look how we can partner with other agencies to develop a capability that benefits everybody," Glenn told The Associated Press.
The state has the ability to link some cameras already, such as those maintained by the highway department, Glenn said. But the state is looking at computer modeling systems that could provide more useful information to state agencies both before and after disasters such as tornadoes or flooding, he said.
One option, a geographic information system, crunches a variety of data to analyze various situations and display information about parts of the state that could face problems during an event.
"You can use it for every single phase of Homeland Security on the prevention and protection side," Glenn said.
In the state's Natural Resources division, about 350 mobile computers provide wildlife, parks, watercraft and other agency officers access to a comprehensive mapping system. That system shows the location of all gas and oil wells, dams, hospitals and other police agencies, said DNR spokeswoman Laura Jones.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio praised the decision to drop the camera network, as did Rep. Jay Hottinger, a Republican from Newark who voiced privacy concerns last year when the contract was approved. He said the state has a record of privacy abuse involving computers and says cameras also could be misused.
"It was not a question of if it would be abused, but when," Hottinger said Monday. "State government doesn't have a very good track record of maintaining confidentiality."
Glenn, 38, was appointed state Homeland Security director in February. He has served as a civil affairs officer in Iraq. As a National Guard infantry officer, he led search and relief missions in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. He is the former executive officer of the Ohio Emergency Management Agency. He'll earn about $91,000 a year.
The state Homeland Security agency analyses potential security problems in the state. Glenn says he sees his job as anticipating the state's needs from a security standpoint: "To look at where the economy is going and then also where Homeland Security needs to grow right alongside it," he said. "To support that growth and make sure Oho is secure enough to grow."