Mayor announces expansion of camera program

About 70 more security cameras are expected to go up around San Francisco in the coming months, with the majority earmarked for crime-plagued public housing sites, Mayor Gavin Newsom announced Friday.

There are 33 security cameras monitoring 14 different city locations. In July, Newsom and the Board of Supervisors approved spending about $270,000 for the purchase of 22 additional cameras as part of this year’s budget. On Friday, Newsom announced that the San Francisco Housing Authority would use federal dollars to purchase 50 more security cameras for surveillance of 10 of its public housing sites.

Newsom said the cameras are “an aggressive effort to move quickly” to bring relief to The City’s Housing Authority sites. There were 14 homicides, 180 aggravated assaults and 426 burglaries reported from public housing sites between January and August, according to statistics from the San Francisco Police Department.

While critics say the cameras infringe on civil liberties and are ineffective, Newsom argues that the cameras are not only a proven crime deterrent but also help with the prosecution of criminals.

Residents have increasingly made requests for the security cameras as The City struggles to control violent crimes. The City’s homicide count is at 64, on pace to match last year’s record-setting 96 homicides.

Newsom said he was at first skeptical of using cameras, but warmed up to them last year after visiting the scene of a shooting near Larch Way, the road running through the Plaza East public housing site. Newsom said he saw “cars literally with bullet holes going all the way down Larch Way and it was at that point where my exacerbation, my frustration was such that I said we’ve got to do something differently.”

During the announcement of the 50 cameras, which Newsom made at the Plaza East housing site, some residents said the cameras were not the solution.

Newsom replied, “This is by no means our solution to crime and violence. Not even close. This is one of 50-plus things we are doing and will be doing to address the issues of crime and violence.”

Answering criticism of The City’s security camera program, Newsom said, “If it’s an abject failure — and I’ll argue it hasn’t been — then we’ll pull back.”

Tina Collins, a mother of three and a resident of Plaza East, had her doubts about the cameras, but said something needs to be done: “The streets are not safe. It’s so violent out there. When I’m getting ready to park my car and I’m going into my door I’m praying to God nobody comes shooting because my child might get hit.”

jsabatini@examiner.comBay Area NewsGovernment & PoliticsLocalPolitics

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