Crime cameras out of the picture?

Funding for controversial crime cameras, touted as part of a solution to The City’s increased violent crime rate, was killed Thursday as San Francisco looks for cuts to balance its budget.

In 2005, The City began installing surveillance cameras. Now, there are more than 70 cameras monitoring 25 crime-plagued intersections in The City.

On Thursday, the Board of Supervisors’ Budget and Finance Committee, which was finalizing deliberations Thursday on Mayor Gavin Newsom’s proposed $6.5 billion budget, slashed $300,000 for the maintenance of the devices.

Supervisors Carmen Chu and Sean Elsbernd opposed the cut for the surveillance cameras, while supervisors Ross Mirkarimi, Chris Daly and Jake McGoldrick supported it.

The committee also cut $60,000 for maintenance of the ShotSpotter gun detection system, which uses acoustic sensors to pinpoint location of shots fired, and was recently installed in the Bayview and Western Addition.

Newsom was critical of the cuts to the high-tech devices Thursday.

“I don’t think this is servicing the pubic safety of the citizens of San Francisco in any way,” he said.

The cameras have faced criticism for being ineffective and an infringement on civil liberties, while advocates say they not only provide a safe feeling for community members, but also have an effect on decreasing crime.

The City’s Department of Technology Director Chris Vein, who oversees the cameras upkeep, said the result of the funding cut is “we would essentially stop maintaining and supporting the system and would also not have money to take it down.”

Mirkarimi said the cameras currently are ineffective and said that the department has $200,000 on reserve this fiscal year for the purchase of 25 additional cameras that it could instead use on repairs and maintenance.

Kevin Ryan, director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, advocated for the funding and said that a report due out in August will show that within 100 feet of a camera, property crime dropped by 22 percent and homicides declined within 250 feet of a camera.

“Cameras are having an impact on behavior around the cameras,” he said.

After the cut, Ryan told The Examiner if money is not found elsewhere “the systems are effectively going to be killed.”

The amount of money that the committee cuts out of the budget is added to a pot of money that the committee then re-allocates to restore cuts to social and health services, among other needs. To balance the city budget, Newsom closed a $338 million budget deficit through cuts to departments and services, fee increases along with layoffs.

The full Board of Supervisors is scheduled for an initial vote on the budget July 15 and a final vote of adoption July 22.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

By the numbers70: Cameras installed in The City

25: City locations monitored by cameras

22%: Decrease in property theft within 100 ft. of camera

$12,000: Cost of each camera

$200,000: Reserve funds for purchase of 25 additional cameras

Source: Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice

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