Oakland considering expanded surveillance system

July 30, 2013 8:56:55 PM PDT
More surveillance throughout Oakland could be coming soon. The City Council will vote Tuesday night on a proposal to expand a surveillance system that would include the port and the city of Oakland. City officials say it will help them respond better to emergencies, but others are saying it's too invasive.

The Port of Oakland has about 130 surveillance cameras. The Department Homeland Security came up with the money in 2008 to help protect the port against any terrorist attack.

Now, Homeland Security wants to give Oakland $2million dollars to expand the surveillance area to include parts of Oakland.

Oakland's Office of Emergency Services says it's a matter of keeping people safe.

"Because all the cameras are in a public view and we would be able to respond and get resources to that emergency whereever it is in the city a lot faster than we can now," Director of Emergency Services Renee Domingo said.

No cameras will be added. The domain awareness center would use four existing cameras and Oakland's mapping system and integrate them into one surveillance center at the Office of Emergency Services.

The City Council is expected to approve it.

"Right now what we are approving tonight would only incorporate data and video feeds from the city of Oakland and the Port of Oakland," Oakland City Councilmember Libby Schaaf said.

That's not to say that later on cameras found at other locations, like the ones at Oakland schools, could be added. But the public would have to be notified and the school board would have to approve it.

The American Civil Liberties Union opposes this kind of surveillance system.

"Say I am an undocumented worker, I leave my job at the end of the day, I am thinking of organizing a union in my workplace and I go to the union hall; I don't want to be tracked in that way; when I go to the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, the abortion clinic," ACLU spokesperson Linda Lye said.

Schaaf is in favor of the domain awareness center but says there must be guidelines to protect a person's privacy.

"When we record, how long we retain that data and who that information can be given to," she said.

People who work and live in Oakland have mixed opinions.

"I think I will support that; I mean, basically, we need more tools for law enforcement," Syed Bilgrami said.

"I guess I would have concerns about privacy and maintaining the privacy of citizens," Ghanya Thomas said.

If the proposal passes, the funds will then be released by Homeland Security.


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