Fremont delays voting on surveillance cameras because of concerns over funding source

FREMONT — Council members offered support for installing surveillance cameras around the city, but postponed voting on the issue Tuesday night because of concerns over funding them with federal housing grants intended to help the poor.

Fremont police were asking the council to reallocate $161,375 in Community Development Block Grant funds — which are earmarked for low- to moderate-income communities — to install 20 digital video cameras to prevent crime.

“I don’t have a problem with the camera program … it’s not an invasion of privacy,” Councilman Vinnie Bacon said. “The linking of the two (the program and the federal housing funds) is where I have the problem.”

After Vice Mayor Anu Natarajan and Councilwoman Sue Chan raised similar concerns, City Manager Fred Diaz suggested that all parties revisit the issue in February, when officials could use mid-year budget projections to identify other funding sources.

The five-member council agreed, voting unanimously to wait a few months to gather more information before reconsidering the item.

Police Chief Richard Lucero said that he will use that extra time to research “protocols and specifics” on how the camera program could be implemented while striking a balance between law enforcement and privacy concerns.

Three residents spoke at the meeting, and each opposed installing the cameras under any circumstance because of concerns about privacy.

Here’s a link to the rest of the story: click here.

Chris DeBenedetti


  1. I was there trying to protect our privacy. The City of Fremont won a Award a while back for being the Safest City, of a town of 200k, is there really a need for this, while are roads are deteriorating. Social Services needs the money. What good is camera’s going to do to make lower income people whole, NOTHING.
    Who is running this city? Who does the council represent, themselves?

  2. Seems like there’s a minor disconnect of opinions here –

    “I don’t have a problem with the camera program … it’s not an invasion of privacy,” Councilman Vinnie Bacon said

    – but meanwhile –

    “Richard Lucero said that he will use that extra time to research “protocols and specifics” on ……… striking a balance between law enforcement and privacy concerns.”

    If there is no invasion of privacy, wouldn’t Mr. Lucero’s time be better spent elsewhere?

  3. I couldn’t help but arrive at the same question, Bill. I wondered if we could solicit feedback from a lot of people in these “low to moderate income” communities, if *they* would be a fan of using this resource for a camera – mounted on a lamp post – OR – if they would have some other suggestions. . . .
    Also – had to wonder how the heck Niles ends up in this category of “low to moderate” income. Of course, how you draw the lines for what is or isn’t included is probably half the magic on these things. Gerrymandering anyone?

  4. Bbox,

    I do not understand why people want more Government in there lives. I have a bit of Libertarian in me.

    I do not think it is governments role to be a “Big Brother” to its citizens, but that is what is happening.

    I do not think we will hear much from the lower income neighborhood’s, they are not very politically active. Politicians depend on them not knowing what is going on.

    I think there are so many programs that really help the lower income Neighborhood’s, they certainly could use the money. How are camera’s going to enrich there lives?

    Is it just me, or is the Fremont City Council moving further to the right

  5. I dont worry so much about the Big Brother aspect of *this* decision, Bill. What they’re proposing is – like so many other law enforcement decisions on technology – a wildly understated drop in the bucket compared to the total investment necessary to deliver an effective solution.
    They’ll get some cameras and storage and the most basic of image processing. But, before this tool is useful for any serious work – we’ll need to invest a whole lot more, if we do at all.
    I’ve been watching the Oakland PD manuever on their desire for a UAV. What they’re going to learn from that investment is that you need to spend a bunch more if you expect to deploy in Bay Area winds most days of the year. . . . but, they’ll have fun chasing their toy downwind or explaining why they can’t launch here and now . . .
    The instances in which these technologies help in a given situation are widely touted. What is never fully explained is the TOTAL investment necessary to deliver on the promises made.
    I think the mentality is to get a hundred grand here – a hundred grand there – with any luck, maybe you’ve got a modicum of effective community coverage with which to do something in 10 years.
    In the meantime, forget the crumbling sidewalks . . . that’s someone else’s job.

  6. I guess I technically should have said “While there are some concerns about thow the collected data will be used, I don’t think the program overall is an invasion of privacy.” These are the concerns that Chief Lucero was talking about researching; how long data will be saved for, who will have access to the data and under what conditions, etc. I will definitely want to hear the results of this research.

    I don’t think the program is an invasion of privacy since the cameras will be looking only at roadways, which are public spaces, and the vehicles on them. When I’m out driving around, the police, or anyone for that matter, can see me and note where I am. I don’t feel that is a violation of my privacy.

    Video can be a powerful enforcement tool. From what I understand of it, the Boston Marathon bombers would not have been caught when they were if it weren’t for the video evidence the FBI used to solve the case.

    The issue that I and other Council members had was that these funds were intended for lower income neighborhoods, and providing cameras for these neighborhoods is arguably not the best way to help out these neighborhoods.

  7. If you had not killed the stadium deal Fremont could have afforded what you and the vocal minority are now looking to big brother to attain.

  8. Vinnie, I think you misunderstand the privacy issue. Surveillance cameras are not the equivalent of a Police officer seeing you and noting where you are. What you must compare them to is a police officer following you around as you drive, photographing you and keeping the information as to where you went, who you met with, etc. indefinitely. The US Supreme Court already said that Police departments could not put at GPS in a car without a warrant – even though cars drive on public streets. That’s an invasion of privacy. Surveillance cameras hope to accomplish what a GPS does, only many times more so. You are not voting to put one camera, after all, but a plethora of them, and many more will follow. Combine those with the cameras in other cities and the photos from license plate cameras, and soon you have a very good idea of the movements of every citizen in the country.

    You are also factually wrong with respect to the usefulness of cameras for law enforcement purposes. Studies show that they are almost completely useless to prevent crime (something that the Fremont Police Chief acknowledge), but also to solve crimes. If you paid attention, you would have noticed that the Chief just said he feels they’re useful, but did not provide any data to back that opinion. That’s because the data does not support it. In England, a country that is blanketed with over 4 million surveillance cameras, only 3% or robberies, or only one per thousand cameras, is solved by the cameras. I have written a summary of the different studies that have been done on the effectiveness of surveillance cameras, and provide links to the studies, here: http://sanleandrotalk.voxpublica.org/2013/09/13/surveillance-cameras-dont-work-against-crime/

    You are also wrong about the use of the surveillance cameras in catching the Boston bombers. To quote Wikipedia: “Despite video footage taken at the scene, the suspects were not identified by authorities before killing a police officer and hijacking a civilian. The actual source of identification was DMV records on the Honda vehicle, which was used in a subsequent kidnapping and then abandoned.” Here is an article that discusses the pros and cons of surveillance cameras for crime control: http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/26/tech/innovation/security-cameras-boston-bombings/

    Meanwhile, the consequences of living under a surveillance state are drastic. “There is a significant psychological price to being constantly aware of the variety of ways in which your activity might be tracked” see http://www.newstatesman.com/2013/06/if-you-live-surveillance-state-long-enough-you-create-censor-your-head

    Vinnie, you are a scientist. I’m sure when voters voted for you, they were aware of that and it mattered. Scientists do not ignore data for intuition or personal impressions. And the data is pretty clear that surveillance is harmful for society while doing very little to alleviate crime. This is not to say that the Police and others may not want surveillance tools: they are very useful to dig dirt on anyone you don’t like. But can you really justify that as good public policy? Remember, you were elected to do what’s good for the community, not to serve the interests of the Police department alone or alleviate paranoia (and, so that you know, studies also show that cameras do little to make people feel safer).

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