Gov. Gavin Newsom announces installation of 480 traffic cameras in parts of East Bay

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Saturday, March 30, 2024
Newsom announces installation of 480 traffic cameras in East Bay
Newsom announces installation of 480 traffic cameras in East Bay

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday the installation of 480 "high-tech" surveillance cameras in Oakland and other East Bay communities as part of the state's effort to help combat crime in the region.

"(This) will aid and support the efforts of law enforcement to focus on stolen vehicles. This is proven technology," said Newsom in a video posted to X, formerly Twitter.

Newsom said the CHP is contracting with a private security company, Flock Safety, to place 290 cameras on Oakland streets and 190 on some unspecified East Bay freeways.

"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," said Newsom.

The new cameras will allow investigators to identify vehicles by searching 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)," according to the governor's office.

The camera system also features real-time alerts that will tell law enforcement agencies when it has identified a suspected or wanted vehicle.

MORE: Gov. Newsom deploying 120 more CHP officers to Oakland in effort to crack down on crime

"More and more cities are seeing that crime is one of those problems that is incredibly hard to solve. And what they are missing is evidence," says Josh Thomas, senior vice president of Policy and Communications at Flock Safety.

Thomas says, on average, each camera costs about $3,500 to operate annually. He adds that they will likely be installed by this summer.

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao said she welcomes the new cameras.

"This new camera network will help us stop crime and hold more suspects accountable," Thao said. "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 nice part about it is, in the City of Hercules, you come into the city, and as you go out, your license plate is being read," said Mayor Dan Romero.

MORE: To catch a speeder: 33 new speed cameras to be installed in SF

Romero says his city has been using Flock license plate readers for more than five years, adding that it has proven to be an effective law enforcement tool.

"We are looking for, basically, felons. We are not looking for outdated registration. Another agency might be looking for outstanding warrant or bail. Or they never showed up to court. And so, those are the tools we are using right now," Romero said.

But these new cameras are raising privacy concerns.

Thomas says state law provide safeguards against how the data is used.

MORE: License plate reading cameras will soon come to more areas of Santa Clara Co. after supervisors vote

"This is not data that is being collected into a big database at some point. It is permanently deleted every 30 days on a rolling basis. There are no biometrics. Moreover, there is no biometric -- no personal identifiable information that's identifiable in the system. We do not have facial recognition technology," Thomas said.

In addition, Thomas says Flock created a transparency portal, where residents can look up what type of data is being collected.

Still, not everyone is thrilled by this latest effort to fight crime in the city of Oakland, however.

Cat Brooks of the Anti Police-Terror Project, or APTP, says the cameras are mostly a PR effort for Newsom.

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"This latest salvo from the governor is merely an effort to burnish his reputation nationally," Brooks said. "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."

"We have seen no data from Newsom or anyone else that suggest that putting these cameras on our highways are going to reduce the rates of violence in our city. The primary problem people face here in the city of Oakland is the homicide rate," said James Burch, who is also with APTP.

Among his concerns is that a surveillance system is being built, one that likely will target communities of color.

"We are creating a very dangerous and concerning surveillance infrastructure here, without any thought of the potential consequences," Burch said.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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