Gilroy surveillance cameras get mixed reviews

August 16, 2011 7:18:22 PM PDT
They say the camera never blinks. A South Bay city is turning on those glassy-eyed devices to help fight crime and to convince shoppers that Gilroy is a great place to shop. Some like the idea; some don't.

On a recent day in Gilroy, a family did not know they were on camera. Neither did Kalie Sealander, who was being recorded for more than an hour.

"I guess for me, now that I know it's there, it makes me feel a little weird," Sealander said.

The security system in downtown Gilroy is in the testing phase. So far, there is just one camera on the corner of Fifth Street and Monterey Road. But by the end of the year, the plan is to have six cameras with 360 degree views.

"If it's graffiti or there's a robbery, or whatever it is, you kind get a better aspect of what's going on," downtown merchant Jacinta Bettencourt said.

In the first half of the year, there were 43 crimes reported in the downtown area, with more than 70 percent of them in a three block area. The Gilroy Downtown Business Association is sharing the $50,000 price tag with the city in an effort to ease concerns about crime.

"We have a great downtown; the crime is not any worse than it is anywhere else and we're trying to solve that perception," Gilroy Downtown Business Association President Eric Howard said.

Dispatchers will be able to monitor the video real time and even control the camera movement. Police declined to show ABC7 that aspect of the operation because they do not want to give would be criminals too much information.

The cameras do have zoom capabilities and some people just are not comfortable with that.

"I think it's an invasion of privacy myself, like I said, you feel like you have to look over your shoulder all the time," downtown employee Kim Summers said.

Police say they will be selective about what video is reviewed but they do plan to store it.

"Ideally we will be keeping the video for one year; this is to backtrack in case there is any investigative value the video that we have on file," Gilroy Police Sgt. Chad Gallacinao said.

One longtime merchant believes catching criminals outweighs any privacy concerns.

"This, I think, gives us just a little bit of an edge up on who done it," Dave Peoples said.

Signs will soon go up, letting people know their activity is being monitored and recorded.


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