A new article by Tom Hays of the Associated Press documents the installation of the first of the brand-new 505 surveillance cameras that the NYPD said they needed and would install. These cameras are very high-tech -- they cost a staggering total of $9.8 million dollars, $20,000 a piece, funded by federal DHS grants -- and thus require a careful description (a la "you paid for it"). But, other than say that the new "wireless video cameras peer down from lamp posts about 30 feet above the sidewalk," the AP article offers no description of what the cameras look like or can do with what they've got.

The accompanying picture is taken from ground level and so hardly shows what monsters they really are: a pair of cameras -- they now come in pairs -- both of them globes, which means each one can swivel round 360 degrees, look beneath themselves and zoom-in so well that they can read a cigarette pack from as far as 1,000 feet away. The AP's looking-up perspective doesn't allow us to see where they cameras can see, that is, into what windows can they look. 30 feet up is certainly high enough to look into the windows of any floor of a standard tenement (three to five storey) building.

The capture to the picture, credited to Mary Altaffer, reads: "A couple of pedestrians walk under New York City Police Department wireless video recorders attached to a lamp post on the corner of Knickerbocker Ave and Starr St. in Brooklyn."

The phrase "wireless video recorders" is meaningless: these cameras are in fact connected to wireless video transmitters, which emit signals that can be picked up by hand-held devices, dashboard installations, laptops, whole networks of receivers who might then record the stream they are sent. There are two catches: the signals can be intercepted or interferred with, and the transmitters expose people, pets, birds, etc to continuous amounts of microwave radiation.

Had the AP photo been taken from a better perspective, we'd have seen what the transmitter (or at least its housing) looks like.