Map: Path of Least Surveillance through Greater Downtown Detroit

Ever since I saw the similarly named map of Manhattan, NYC in an Atlas of Radical Cartography I have wanted to recreate the concept for Detroit. The hardest part as usual was data collection or data access. Collecting data on surveillance and CCTV cameras would have taken forever, but was possible. One of the Data, Mapping, and Research Justice workshops that I ran tested data collection in the Cass Corridor, which had surprisingly few cameras. I randomly stumbled upon the CCTV data variable on Mapillary, which is an open source streetview platform. Submitted streetview images are scanned to extract multiple data points and cameras happen to be one. The data is not perfect, but is fairly reliable since the City of Detroit itself is capturing and submitting streetview imagery to Mapillary.

Now, Detroit is a city full of security and surveillance: Project Greenlight, Shotspotter, expansion of Automated License Plate Readers, etc. Wayne State University Police Chief Holt is quoted as saying, “Anywhere on campus, if you look up, I can see you.” The WSUPD managed the camera apparatus that was installed prior to the 2006 Super Bowl XL until the Detroit Police were able to take on the resource via their $20 million Real Time Crime Center. WSUPD has at least 380 external cameras across campus properties.

The Gilbert/Bedrock/Quicken group has installed at least 850 cameras on the properties that they own, manage, or ones just wish to own like American Coney Island and 1515 Broadway. The offending entity turned out to be Compuware security, but many if not all major Downtown companies have been sharing and collaborating on surveillance for many years.

In all I found 2,943 surveillance cameras in the Greater Downtown 7.2 sq mi area. The best I could do was find a route that encounters at least 41 cameras within 25 feet of the route. The route starts in New Center Commons on Third Street and ends up at Hart Plaza, which is full of cameras. Once you reach the Central Business District it is impossible not to be captured on camera or possibly surveilled.

Surveillance isn’t safety. Check out the Green Light Black Futures Community Safety Survey

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