Friday, March 21, 2008

Cameras and Crime

Looks like the Eureka Police Department will be among the first of the local law enforcement agencies to install video cameras to the dashboards of their patrol cars. This should be good for everyone's protection.

The cameras do seem bit pricey, as one comment to the Times- Standard already mentions. Some will say government always pays too much for things. I suspect it might have more to do with the cameras being bought as an option with the cars, assuming that's part of the deal.

I've been told that it's much more expensive to buy things as options when buying a new car than to just buy the car and add options, such as a stereo, later on. Don't know if that's the case here.
Speaking of cameras, San Francisco has been taking a look at the success, or lack thereof, of their crime surveillance camera program.

A UC Berkeley study shows the cameras haven't reduced crime at all, with the exception of perhaps some petty larcenies that have been reduced a little in the area right nearby the cameras.

Nonetheless, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is still not to be deterred in expanding the camera program if only because it "makes people feel safer...". It might cost up to $200,000 for the additional cameras. That's probably money well spent in the minds of most San Franciscans.


At 10:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cameras on police car dashboards are visible only in the area in front of the car, to see what the police do during traffic stops and incident calls. In other words, those cameras are in certain locations only temporarily and in a visible way.

Surveillance spy cams on public areas are a different beast altogether, since they are permanent, they are hidden, and they are spying on people in the conduct of their ordinary lives away from any specific law enforcement-related encounter.

Please don't lump them together then, since they are very different services intended for very different targets.

At 12:59 PM, Blogger Fred said...

Well, the reason given for the San Francisco cameras is to help locate and stop crime as it happens. Whether that's the real purpose,or whether they achieve that purpose, is open for discussion, but both uses of the cameras are related to crime, thus the title of the thread. If for no other reason than I didn't know what else to label this post.

At 5:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course Thaddeus the cop-hater had to quote the worthless defense attorney ACLU piece of crap Christina Notbright who wasn't appeased a bit. She basically accused the cops of being ready to tamper with the cameras to cover up their "misdeeds".And of course, they complain about the cops shooting people and then complain when they plan to give them tasers so they don't kill 'em right off the bat.

At 11:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

She said nothing of the kind, but its not any surprise to see Kevin Hoover anonymously blog his hatred for Christina Allbright, he's been doing that for years, ever since she called him on his shit for being a biased reporter.

At 2:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cameras in public places are helping our growing towns and cities get back to the way things used to be in small-town America.

Everybody in town saw everything you did. Everybody knew everybody else's business.

The up-side is that if anybody did anything criminal, someone would likely see them in the act and know exactly who they were. That made law enforcement quite effective.

The new era of omnipresent cameras will simply return us to that safe and sane way of living, and privacy will be a thing of the past. Again.

At 10:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Crime cameras not capturing many crimes

Heather Knight, Chronicle Staff Writer

Friday, March 21, 2008

San Francisco's 68 controversial anti-crime cameras haven't deterred criminals from committing assaults, sex offenses or robberies - and they've only moved homicides down the block, according to a new report from UC Berkeley.

Researchers found that nonviolent thefts dropped by 22 percent within 100 feet of the cameras, but the devices had no effect on burglaries or car theft. And they've had no effect on violent crime.

Mayor Gavin Newsom called the report "conclusively inconclusive" on Thursday but said he still wants to install more cameras around the city because they make residents feel safer.

"When I put the first cameras in, I said, 'This may only move people around the corner,' " he said. "But the community there said, 'We don't care, we want our alleyway back.' No one's actually had a camera up that they wanted torn down in the community."

But not all city officials think it's wise to spend money on public safety measures if the best thing that can be said about them is they have a placebo effect for worried residents.

"In their current configuration they are not useful, and they give people a false sense of security, which I think is bad," said Police Commissioner Joe Alioto-Veronese. He added that previous studies of security cameras in other parts of the country have also shown that they do not deter violent crime.

The cameras have been installed in phases on some of the city's roughest streets since 2005 with large concentrations of them in the Western Addition and Mission District and others in the lower Haight, the Tenderloin and near Coit Tower.

They've been controversial from the start. Representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union say they're a violation of privacy, and some members of the Board of Supervisors and Police Commission, as well as the city's public defender, say they're ineffective in fighting crime.

The cameras have contributed to only one arrest nearly two years ago in a city that saw 98 homicides last year, a 12-year high. The video is choppy, and police aren't allowed to watch video in real-time or maneuver the cameras to get a better view of potential crimes.
Final report not ready

The city has spent $900,000 on the cameras so far and has budgeted $200,000 for 25 more cameras that need Police Commission approval to be installed. The commission has refused to approve the new cameras until seeing a report on whether they're doing any good.

The city administrator contracted with researchers at UC Berkeley's Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society to do the study, and the group published its preliminary results this week. A final report is expected in a few months, and the Police Commission will hold off on approving any new cameras until then, President Theresa Sparks said.

Researchers examined data from the San Francisco Police Department detailing the 59,706 crimes committed within 1,000 feet of the camera locations between Jan. 1, 2005, and Jan. 28, 2008.

These were the total number of crimes for which police had reports - regardless of whether the crimes were caught on video. The idea was to look at whether criminals stopped committing crimes at those locations because they knew cameras were there.

Using a complicated method, researchers were able to come up with an average daily crime rate at each location broken out by type of crime and distance from the cameras. They then compared it with the average daily crime rate from the period before the cameras were installed.

They looked at seven types of crime: larcenies, burglaries, motor vehicle theft, assault, robbery, homicide and forcible sex offenses.

The only positive deterrent effect was the reduction of larcenies within 100 feet of the cameras. No other crimes were affected - except for homicides, which had an interesting pattern.

Murders went down within 250 feet of the cameras, but the reduction was completely offset by an increase 250 to 500 feet away, suggesting people moved down the block before killing each other.

The final report is expected to analyze the figures in more depth and to include other crimes, including prostitution and drug offenses.

Kevin Ryan, director of the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice, said it's premature to dismiss the use of the cameras based on the preliminary report. He said the report shows the devices change behavior in some instances. "At the end of the day, if the report does suggest what I think it's going to suggest, that it can be an effective tool, we're going to have to deploy it in the most effective way we can," he said.
Real-time monitoring sought

Ryan is pushing for the cameras to be monitored in real-time like they are in Chicago and other cities. Those police departments are often able to catch crimes in progress and immediately respond. Newsom does not support that idea.

Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who has long been a critic of the cameras, said the report is further proof they're not improving public safety.

He said they're no substitute for attacking the causes of crime and said money would be better invested in community-based policing, anti-violence projects in schools, and services that help ex-prisoners readjust to life in society so they don't commit more crimes.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who heads the board's public safety committee, pointed out that the report comes at a time when the city is facing one of its biggest budget deficits in recent memory.

He has supported the cameras because they make residents in high-crime areas feel safer, but he said that may not be enough of a reason to expand the program.

"We have to decide the fiscal value of that scarecrow strategy," he said. "It gives people some psychological relief, but if the data shows the cameras don't have the intended consequences, it's going to come down to a matter of dollars."

E-mail Heather Knight at

At 8:02 PM, Blogger ΛΕΟΝΙΔΑΣ said...

"money well spent in the minds of most San Franciscans."

Sort of like buying shopping carts for the urban outdoorsmen and giving "sanctuary" to MS13 gang members?


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