Nearly 500 Cameras Headed to Oakland, Calif., Area Freeways – Government Technology

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Nearly 500 Cameras Headed to Oakland, Calif., Area Freeways

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Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said the California Highway Patrol will stand up 480 surveillance cameras on Oakland streets and East Bay freeways to help identify vehicles associated with crimes. Privacy advocates have criticized the plan.

Tall buildings in Oakland, California are seen against the skyline.

(TNS) — More than a month after he briefly deployed California Highway Patrol units to fight crime in Oakland, California Gov. Gavin Newsom isn’t quite finished with confronting public safety concerns in the city.

In a news release Friday, the governor’s office said CHP will install a network of 480 surveillance cameras throughout Oakland streets and East Bay freeways to help law enforcement identify vehicles associated with crimes. But the plan is also drawing fire from privacy advocates.

Besides reading license plate numbers, the cameras can help law enforcement track vehicles by identifying them based on vehicle type, make and color; state; missing or covered plates; and bumper stickers, decals and roof racks. The camera system will alert law enforcement immediately when it spots a vehicle linked to a crime, the governor’s office said.

Newsom’s office did not reveal the specific locations of the cameras, but the release said 290 will be installed on Oakland streets and 190 will be on East Bay highways. In a video of Newsom explaining the new security cameras, posted Friday on X, formerly known as Twitter, the governor is shown standing in front of the high-crime Hegenberger corridor near Oakland International Airport.

The cameras come from a state contract with Flock Safety, an Atlanta startup that promises to help communities “eliminate crime.”

The company has contracts with cities in many states, including California. It’s also expanding in the Bay Area by securing contracts with cities like San Jose, San Mateo and Berkeley.

Neighborhood associations in Oakland, including Lakeshore, Crestmont and Oakmore, have also been looking into using Flock’s cameras, Oaklandside reported last week. The cameras would be installed on private property and would monitor cars entering a neighborhood.

But despite the spread of this technology, some community members have raised concerns about the new network of cameras, including Brian Hofer, a member of the Oakland Privacy Advisory Commission. The commission is responsible for providing city leaders with privacy advice on surveillance equipment, according to its website.

Hofer told the Mercury News the number of new cameras is a “significant amount” for the size of Oakland. “I just hope people understand — going from 300 cameras to now almost 500 — a really significant amount of location data is now going to be in the hands of the state, and mischief can arise from that,” Hofer told the outlet.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based digital rights group, has also criticized automated license plate readers, including Flock’s. The group has questioned whether the camera networks are effective and is concerned that the ALPR data could be misused to wrongly implicate someone in a crime.

The California governor’s office said the new camera network in Oakland will store data for only 28 days and the information will not be disclosed to third parties “beyond California law enforcement.”

The surveillance cameras are the latest initiative from the governor’s office this year to combat rising crime, including a raft of smash-and-grab robberies in the area where Newsom filmed his announcement. According to a citywide report, crime in 2023 across Oakland increased 17 percent over the previous year, with the biggest jumps in motor vehicle theft and robberies.

In February, the governor’s office deployed 120 CHP officers in Oakland and the greater East Bay to assist with cracking down on crime trends in the area, including auto burglaries, retail theft, vehicle theft and violent crime. The surge led to 71 arrests and 145 recovered stolen vehicles immediately after it concluded Feb. 9.

In Newsom’s video announcing the new surveillance cameras, he said the increased CHP presence has led to 200 arrests and more than 400 recovered vehicles.

©2024 SFGate, San Francisco, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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