Over the winter, I spent a week and a half riding around with the police in the great city of Chicago. 2,250 spy cameras, 466,000 pieces of evidence, four suspected drug dealers, and one giant car chase later, the report I filed for Wired magazine on my trip is finally out. Here's how it starts.On a warm afternoon on Chicago's West Side, a young African-American man leans against the wall of the One Stop Food and Liquor store at the corner of Chicago Avenue and Homan Street. His puffy black jacket is so oversize that the collar hangs halfway down his back. Thirty feet up, a camera mounted on a telephone pole swivels toward him.Three miles away, in a bunkerlike, red granite building near Greektown, Ron Huberman watches the young man on a PC screen. "You see that guy?" asks Huberman, the 33-year-old chief of Chicago's Office of Emergency Management and Communications. "He's pitching dope - you can tell. Fucker."The corner of Chicago and Homan used to be a haven for dealers slinging heroin and rock cocaine, the heart of a gangbanger free-fire zone. In 2003, the Windy City had 598 homicides, making it the country's murder capital. Three of the killings happened within a couple-block radius from here."We've gotta figure out where's he keeping the goods," says Huberman, his voice breaking from a bout with the flu. "We're gonna go on the air" - call for a police car - "and bust him."With a move of his mouse, Huberman pans to the right. We're looking down at a second man, in a beige coat. He has a brown paper bag in one hand and a wad of cash in the other. "He's involved," Huberman says, staring hard at the screen. No cop, even undercover, could ever get this close for this long. But the cameras - housed in checkerboard-patterned, 2-foot-tall boxes the police here call pods - can zoom in so tight I can see the wisps of a mustache. Huberman decides not to have his suspected dealers picked up; too much of an Enemy of the State move to pull with a reporter around, perhaps. But the footage will be stored for review by antinarcotics teams. "Now you see the power of what we're doing?" Huberman asks, still staring at the screen.
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