- San Diego's Smart Streetlight cameras could get a sole user: the Police Department.
- A new proposal, if adopted, would mark a shift in how the cameras are used.
The new plan calls for the few thousand cameras tucked in streetlights around the city to record video solely for police.
- On Wednesday, a City Council committee will get its first look at a plan that calls for handing off the Smart Streetlights program to police.
The plan could cost up to about $7 million over the next four years.
The proposal was laid out in a staff report to be heard by the Public Safety & Livable Neighborhoods Committee.
- The city's Sustainability Department runs the streetlight cameras program. In the staff report, department leaders pitched the change.
It comes as they seek approval to alter city contracts with Ubicquia, the company that provides the services for the Smart Streetlights program.
The reason behind the change: the cost of the mobility data collection outweighs the benefits for a city facing "financial limitations."
- Under the proposal, the Sustainability Department would turn over the program to the Police Department, which wants to keep the cameras to keep rolling. The burden of paying for it would shift to police.
- The streetlight-mounted cameras have special sensor used to turn images of cars and people into data — thus the "smart" in smart streetlights.
- A police official said Friday that maintaining access to the raw camera footage is a priority, and the return on investment for the department to keep the cameras rolling (without the sensors) "far exceeds" the cost.
- Police first accessed the camera footage in August 2018. As of Thursday — a little more than two years later — they had accessed footage for the 400th time.
- "They will not be 'smart' anything; they will simply be 'big brother' surveillance cameras," Geneviéve Jones-Wright, who leads a coalition of groups concerned about policing, said in a email.
She called the timing of the proposal "tone deaf."
"Why are we seeking to commit $7 million more dollars to a citywide network of surveillance cameras for police use in the middle of our city’s biggest deficit and while there are so many unresolved issues surrounding police trust and accountability?" she said.
Jones-Wright also said it was "the precise wrong time" for the city to buy "a widespread mass surveillance system without ordinances that will provide oversight," which she noted her coalition is working on with council members.