New Orleans is festooned with police cameras, the legacy of a secret partnership with the surveillance contractor Palantir, which used New Orleans as a covert laboratory for predictive policing products.
One such camera was wired into a public light pole outside 6119 Vicksburg. It looked like other Real-Time Crime Monitoring Center-connected cameras, and was emblazoned with NOPD logos. But when the cops tried to pull the footage from the camera after a car break-in, they discovered that it wasn't connected to their network, and no one knew where it came from (not even the private entity that does neighborhood security, the Lakeview Crime Prevention District).
One possible clue: 6119 Vicksburg is down the street from the former home of Jeff Burkhardt (he recently signed over the house to his wife in a separation agreement), and the victim of the car break-in believed that the camera was Burkhardt's. Burkhardt is vice president and chief operations officer for Active Solutions, LLC, a surveillance contractor that installs cameras for the city of New Orleans.
Burkhardt's responses to questions about the camera were not reassuring. First he told The Lens's reporters that he had no comment because it was "fake news." Then he said he didn't know who the camera belonged to. Then he said he wouldn't comment. Then he said that neither he nor his company were involved with the camera's purchase or installation, stating "My company had absolutely nothing to do with it whatsoever." But when asked whether he "had anything to do with the camera being there" he switched back to "no comment." Burkhardt's wife, Samantha Burkhardt, told The Lens she would call them back with comment, but did not.
The day after The Lens contacted Burkhardt, the camera was removed.
The mayor's office would not comment on the story.
Hamilton is currently representing an attorney with the Orleans Public Defenders, Laura Bixby, in a lawsuit against the city. They are demanding that the city release the locations of its surveillance cameras. Bixby won the case in Civil District Court last month. But the camera locations haven't been released yet, and the city is appealing the decision.
"If that map were publicly available, people could see that this isn't a public camera," Hamilton said. "It looks like it's a counterfeit with the logo on it."
Police found surveillance cameras with NOPD logos mounted to a Lakeview light pole. They weren't the city's. But they were near a house connected to a city crime-camera contractor. [Michael Stein and Charles Maldonado/The Lens NOLA]
(Image: Charles Maldonado/The Lens)
(Thanks, Bonnie Poptart!)