Oakland Pulls Plug on Crime Cam Plan

June 17, 1999 12:00 am

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OAKLAND, CA — The Oakland City Council has once again decided against putting surveillance cameras on public streets in high-crime areas, the San Francisco Examiner reported today.

After heated debate, which included frequent references to “Big Brother” as well as desperate pleas to reduce crime, council members voted 5-3 to reject a plan that, on a trial basis, would have placed several video cameras in some of East Oakland’s highest crime areas.

Council President Ignacio De La Fuente, long an enigma on the issue, cast the deciding vote. “No one can deny that this council has attacked crime in many different ways on many different occasions, but there has to be a limit,” De La Fuente told the Examiner.

He told the paper that he voted against the measure because he believed rather than reducing crime, the cameras would simply move it to other parts of the city. He also said he would rather spend city funds on other, more proven crime-prevention initiatives.

Mayor Jerry Brown, who has stated he wants to reduce crime in Oakland by 20 percent, said in a written statement he did not support the proposal.

“Reducing crime is something the community and police must work on together,” the statement read. “Installing a few or a few dozen surveillance cameras will not make us safe. It should also not be forgotten that the intrusive powers of the state are growing with each passing decade.”

After dismissing a similar idea two years ago (read our newswire at /news/w091897c.html), the Oakland Police Department endorsed the reincarnation of the city’s crime cam proposal, emphasizing it should be done on a trial basis.

But critics told the Examiner that while the cameras cost cities money, and potentially infringe on residents’ right to privacy, there is no proof the devices deter crime.

“People assume that it (camera surveillance) is an effective tool in fighting crime, but police departments have no concrete evidence proving that point,” John Crew, an attorney with American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California told the paper. “If anything, it may have a displacement effect, pushing crime out of the range of the cameras and into other areas.”

In the past year, the city council has come under the scrutiny of the ACLU and other civil rights advocates who say the council’s aggressive efforts to increase public safety and clean up the city tread on citizens’ rights.

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