Debate Grows Over Surveillance Cameras on LA Streets

April 13, 1999 12:00 am

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HUNTINGTON PARK, CA — City officials in Southern California are seeking to install surveillance cameras along popular streets even though it might infringe on citizens’ constitutional right to privacy, the Los Angeles Times reported today.

The cameras — to be funded by a local businessman and run by the city — represent the most intense use of outdoor surveillance in Southern California, the American Civil Liberties Union told the Times.

“It’s a slippery slope,” said Michael Klein, an attorney with the ACLU of Southern California. “If you let the police put cameras in this place and that place, then they will be everywhere.” Klein told the paper that the increased use of cameras will raise the likelihood of abuse by government officials.

According to the Times, the cameras will be positioned to stake out sidewalks and parking lots. Once the cameras are installed, signs will be posted to let people know they are being watched. According to the paper, the cameras will be monitored by police at a substation on the boulevard. If the cameras are a success, city officials told the paper, they will expand the program to cover the entire six-block shopping area of Huntington Park.

When the city of Oakland, CA was confronted with a similar situation in 1997, Police Chief Joseph Samuels changed his mind and decided against a plan to place video surveillance cameras at trouble spots around the city, citing the cost and concerns about civil liberties.

The ACLU has taken a strong position against the use of surveillance devices. Last week, ACLU Associate Director Barry Steinhardt served as the contrarian at a “summit meeting” of the Security Industry Association and members of law enforcement, urging support for privacy laws to limit the use of video surveillance of the public.

You can also view the New York Civil Liberties Union’s map of surveillance cameras in the Big Apple at

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