Newsom Announces 480 High Tech Cameras in East Bay – Civil Rights Groups Opposed

Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Oakland, CA- Governor Newsom announced on Friday that California is installing a network of 480 high-tech cameras in Oakland and the East Bay to “aid law enforcement in identifying vehicles linked to crimes using real-time information and alerts.”

California, the Governor announced, “has entered into a contract with Flock Safety to install a network of approximately 480 high-tech cameras in the City of Oakland and on state freeways in the East Bay to combat criminal activity and freeway violence.”

According to the announcement, “The camera network will use a patented technology that allows law enforcement agencies to identify vehicle attributes beyond license plate numbers, enabling the CHP, the Oakland Police Department, and allied agencies to search for vehicles suspected to be linked to crimes and receive real-time alerts about their movement.”

“This investment marks another step forward in our commitment to bolstering public safety and tackling organized crime and roadway violence in Oakland and across California,” Governor Newsom said in a statement Friday.

He added, “With the installation of this 480 high-tech camera network, we’re equipping law enforcement with the tools they need to effectively combat criminal activity and hold perpetrators accountable — building safer, stronger communities for all Californians.”

The announcement also had the support of Oakland’s Mayor Sheng Thao.

“Improving public safety and addressing quality of life issues in Oakland is my top priority,” said Mayor Thao.  This new camera network will help us stop crime and hold more suspects accountable. On behalf of all Oaklanders, I want to thank the Governor and the California Highway Patrol for their ongoing commitment and investments in the city.”

The Governor’s office noted that the camera network will allow for “improved vehicle recognition, enabling law enforcement to search for crime-linked vehicles by vehicle type, make, color, license plate state, missing/covered plates, and other unique features (e.g., bumper stickers, decals, and roof racks).”

They added, “The system also enables real-time crime alerts, alerting authorities when a suspected crime-linked vehicle is spotted by the network.”

But not everyone is supportive of this move.

Cat Brooks, co founder and Executive Director of the Anti Police-Terror Project said in response, “For every dollar we spend on surveillance cameras, that’s a dollar not spent on proven public safety strategies.”

She continued, “We are concerned by both a state and city in massive budget deficits and the largest homeless population in our city and across the country. When we decide to deploy 480 new cameras we should be asking how many people could be housed with the money we spend on this, how many people could be trained to do living wage jobs.”

The announcement is part of the rollout to crack down on property crimes.

The Governor’s office noted on Friday, “Today’s announcement builds on Governor Newsom’s efforts to improve public safety in the East Bay, including through a temporary CHP surge operation and increased enforcement focused on combating auto theft, cargo theft, retail crime, violent crime, and high-visibility traffic enforcement, which has resulted in the recent arrests of approximately 200 suspects and recovery of 400 stolen vehicles.”

But Brooks sees it differently.

While the Governor talks about “investing in Oakland,” Brooks explained, in reality, “the Governor is divesting from the people of Oakland. He is divesting us of our young people, our families. This pulls our spirit, our culture, and our safety out of Oakland.”

This latest “salvo” from the Governor, Brooks continued, “is merely an effort to burnish his reputation nationally.”

The problem she says is that “it’s coming at the cost of the people of Oakland.”

Indeed, she argues, “The approach is adopting the same failed strategies we’ve taken for decades. We’ve never stopped sending people to jails, yet crime keeps rising because it’s an approach that doesn’t work.”

Like many critics of surveillance, there is clear concern that this comes at the expense of communities of color.

Brooks stated that “the cameras are most likely to be deployed in low-income neighborhoods, where largely Black and brown people will be impacted. Oakland is supposed to be a sanctuary city yet we don’t know who the data collected will be shared with.”

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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