New Orleans reverses facial recognition ban amid surging crime

Facial recognition will work in tandem with New Orleans' network of more than 500 street cameras, raising complaints from civil rights advocates

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New Orleans city leaders approved a measure Thursday to reinstate the use of facial recognition software as an investigative tool, despite the technology raising privacy concerns, as crime continues to plague the city.

The City Council passed a resolution in a 4-2 vote to use the controversial software technology, which is used in tandem with the Real Time Crime Center, a network of more than 500 cameras across the city, WDSU-TV reported.

Speaking in support of the technology, police officials pointed to a policy of how facial recognition can be used with measures ensuring accuracy and rules to make sure it is not used as probable cause, NOLA.com reported. 

In a statement, the New Orleans Police Department thanked the council for passing the ordinance. 

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Police vehicles block access to Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

Police vehicles block access to Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Bryan Tarnowski/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

"We promise the citizens of this city that this technology will be used in a manner consistent with the constitutional policing practices we have worked so hard to implement and are now what we are as a department," the statement said. 

On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana called on residents to oppose the use of the technology, calling it "ineffective, expensive, and racist."

The criticism comes as facial recognition technology has been accused of allowing racial biases to go unchecked and lead to the arrests of many people of color. 

On Wednesday, the city said any findings from the technology will be reviewed by those trained in facial recognition, privacy and civil rights issues. 

A ban on facial recognition took effect in 2021, but city leaders have pushed for its reinstatement as crime has increased throughout the country and has affected New Orleans. 

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As of Thursday, the city has experienced 148 homicides, compared to 113 in the same time frame last year. Stabbings, armed robberies and carjackings are also up in the city.