By DOUG CURLEE | Mission Times Courier
It’s never easy to tell people that cameras may be watching the area where they live, and recording data that can be accessed if you know how.
The city of San Diego is planning on installing such cameras in the Navajo area — Allied Gardens, Grantville, San Carlos and Del Cerro — and the city is asking area residents to bring their concerns to a community meeting July 30 at the Allied Gardens Library. The meeting starts at 5 p.m.
“We want to be sure the public has a chance to weigh in on this technology as a part of the process,” said Cody Hooven, the city’s chief sustainability officer.
San Diego is in the process of installing what will eventually be 8,000 LED streetlights that will give control over the lights to the city in order to cut energy costs significantly. The lights can be dimmed when not needed, or can be brightened when more light is needed.
That’s a good thing, and most people support it.
What is drawing some negative reaction is the fact that about 3,200 cameras will be installed on some of those lights — cameras that can record and save video of things that might happen within the range of those cameras.
The cameras are primarily aimed at keeping an eye on things like traffic problems developing in areas that might need redesigning, or bush or tree growth that might be obscuring views. Camera sensors will also be able to sniff out air pollution problems, and a number of other things.
But there is some concern that the cameras will be surveilling people at the behest of the Police Department, and that Big Brother is watching a little too closely.
According to Hooven, they will not be doing that.
The cameras are not surveillance cameras as we think of them. They don’t tilt up or down. They don’t pan from side to side. They are not able to recognize faces. They are not able to follow action and they are not able to record voices. They are not able to zoom in on license plates. That said, a camera or two in the Downtown area were able to capture still shots that enabled police to crack a homicide case last May.
Anything the cameras may capture is stored on the device for five days — police can request the pictures as evidence, and transfer them to the SDPD’s own secure sites.
After five days, the camera automatically erases whatever content it holds.
The public will be able to access the cameras if they want to through the city’s website.
The hope is that people will come to see that much lower power costs and better control over problems that might develop in their communities is worth what it costs to do all this — about $30 million all told.
The city can get that back with much lower energy costs. So far, the city says it has saved about $70,000 a month in electricity costs.
We don’t know yet exactly where the cameras in the Navajo areas will be — that should come out at the July 30 meeting.
If you’re still thinking these are surveillance cameras under another name, they are not. This won’t be at all like the surveillance cameras in the free world’s most-surveilled city: London, England, where they have lots of surveillance cameras that follow every step you take — no matter where you go.
London has, by actual count, 647,000 million cameras. And they’re adding more.