Seattle Crime Cams – Long-distance disaster tourism

Created by Dries Depoorter and currently exhibited at the New Media Gallery, ‘Seattle Crime Cams‘ questions the sense of citizens responsibility in the age where technology has enabled us to participate globally.

From cell phone and CCTV content, to forensic analysis, to creative coding, the artists and activists in this exhibition gain access to missing, hidden or difficult-to-retrieve information. Each work deconstructs selected events, times and places, offering us a range of eyewitness perspectives, interpretations and testimony. 

E Y E W I T N E S S – New Media Gallery

The installation, originally conceived in 2015, is trying to show visitors a realtime crime with the help of realtime police data and open surveillance cameras and turns visitors into active observers. Using the location of the latest call, the closest live surveillance cameras are showed, mixing between public and open cameras.

Below each live stream you a small screen is included showing the distance between the location of the camera and the location where the police is going to. On the right, 2 screens show a map and more details about the calls including a reason and date/time. The map is showing the police location and the locations of the 10 closest cameras. The audio visitors hear the live police radio in Seattle, achieved with the help of a physical police scanner in Seattle.

The first version was made in 2015 with the help of IDFA DocLab and De Brakke Grond. After the release the work was exhibited all over Europe at festivals such as Bozar, Mundaneum, Trailerpark Festival I/O, Bam festival, New Technological Art Award and Coded Cultures.

List of current police responses

For the new version (2022), Dries rewrote the code, used half of the code lines and way less libraries. Everything is running on the latest Raspberry Pi 4 (4GB) with Debian version 11 (bullseye) in 64 bit. Each Raspberry Pi is running a python script that is calculating the distance between the location where the police is going to and a list of cameras. Dries used the python library haversine to calculate the distance using the coordinates (latitude and longitude) from the police location to the cameras.

Dries also often uses rich library, handy for when trying to debug python and show text in a beautiful way.

Complete hardware list includes 12 x Raspberry Pi, 43D printed mounted, 10x Pimoroni Display-O-Tron HAT, 2x routers, 2x speakers, a custom frame in aluminium (black anodised) and ethernet cables. Software is Python 3 (with libraries rich and haversine), Firebase databases for saving the locations of each camera. 

Currently on display at the New Media Gallery in Vancouver for the exhibition “Eyewitness”. The exhibitions runs from Feb 5 – Mar 30, 2022.

Project Page | Dries Depoorter

See also: Pictus Interruptus and Other Notes on the Selfie / Pablo Garcia