Oakland's Chinatown installs cameras

November 12, 2009 7:22:54 PM PST
A watchful new eye is coming to Oakland in the form of dozens of camera lenses. The high-tech surveillance system is being set up near downtown in Oakland's Chinatown neighborhood.

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"What I'm talking about, not only walking, but also when you are driving trough Chinatown; there are certain angles, parts that you will also be seen," Chinatown Chamber of Commerce spokesperson Carl Chan said.

A dozen storefronts already have the new surveillance cameras up and in about a month, just about every block of the busy neighborhood will be captured on video around the clock.

Nearly every business owner in Chinatown has agreed to pay for the new surveillance systems; some merchants are even installing as many as four cameras in the name of safety.

"To make the people coming to Chinatown and make them feel safely, more safe than other places," store owner Tim Tam said.

If it sounds a little too big brother, Chinatown merchants say, 'Don't worry,' they will only hand over video from these surveillance cameras to the police department.

"Some businesses cannot afford two cameras, so if I have next door's place set up, they would have them facing one way and one business would face another way so we catch both sides of the block," Oakland police officer Alan Yu said.

That means the web of cameras already in place will soon grow to one long, continuous chain.

The lack of privacy does not seem to concern shoppers.

"I'm a little paranoid about it, but on the other hand, if it would increase safety and get people out on the streets more, I think it's got its pros and cons," Berkeley resident Steve Blumenkrantz said.

Chinatown is already one of Oakland's lowest crime neighborhoods, but business owners hope their cameras send a message to prospective criminals.

"If you come here to enjoy yourself you shouldn't have any concerns because the tape is not going to be used by anyone, but if you do come here to do crime, then you should reconsider; don't come to Chinatown," Chan said.

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