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City, police may use cameras to look out for crime
RICHMOND: Council seeks bids for surveillance system set up to monitor hot spots, illegal dumping areas

John Geluardi / CONTRA COSTA TIMES | September 28 2006

Daily activities such as going to the corner store, strolling in a park or picking up children at school soon could be monitored by Richmond police cameras.

After a presentation by Richmond police Chief Chris Magnus on Tuesday night, the City Council put out a call for surveillance companies to submit bids for wiring up crime hot spots and areas where illegal dumping frequently occurs.

The cost of the surveillance program will not be known until the council decides on the type of closed-circuit equipment and the Police Department works out camera monitoring policies, Magnus said.

"We know crime is repeatedly committed in various areas around Richmond," he said. "If we had cameras in those areas, we could have collected information that may have led to arrests and convictions. It's another set of eyes."

No specific camera sites have been chosen yet, but the most likely areas would be in the Iron Triangle and parts of south Richmond and the Shields/Reid Neighborhood. The cameras would monitor areas known for homicides and drug dealing. They would also monitor some public parks and isolated streets near the West County Landfill and in south Richmond where illegal dumping commonly takes place.

Magnus was quick to point out that closed-circuit surveillance is not a cure-all for crime and illegal dumping, but it could help police investigations, lead to more arrests and support witness testimony.

Longtime Iron Triangle resident Odessa Green said it's high time the cameras were installed.

"I've lived in Richmond for 65 years, and it's not Richmond anymore," she said. "It's a slaughterhouse, and it's filthy. When are we finally going to get these cameras?"

But others argued that closed-circuit monitoring of public streets is an invasion of privacy and won't deter crime, but rather move it.

"The remedies to the crime problem go way beyond anything a camera can offer," said Jim Hausken, a member of the American Civil Liberties Union. "The idea that we have to give up our civil liberties for a false sense of security offered by a camera is outrageous."

Magnus said the cameras would only monitor public right of ways and not private property.

"There are going to be people concerned about civil liberties," he said. "But we're talking about something that could help protect the civil liberties of the 99 percent of residents who are affected by crime."

City staff is expected to put out a request for proposals within 30 days and prepare a report for the City Council in about 90 days.

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