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CCTV - Closed Circuit Television

Original post made by Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 24, 2008

Due to the almost daily reporting of crime incidents appearing in Palo Alto and the questions asked as to "something" and "what" can be done, I would like to advocate to us all the wisdom of cctv around Palo Alto.

The fact that cctv is digital and relatively inexpensive as a crime solving tool is now shown by the many, many countries using the system and the aid to solving crime as well as reducing crime. We already have the cameras in so many places we don't even see them, and putting them in parking lots, shopping areas, near schools, etc. would be little more noticeable. To say that someone is always watching you as you go about your daily business which infringes on your privacy is not on as no one looks at these cameras unless a crime has been committed at that time in that particular area. If you were a victim of a crime I feel sure you would be pleased that it had been caught on cctv in aiding the police to catch the crooks.

We must ask ourselves why we can't do this now because the other question to ask ourselves is what will happen if we don't. Do we really want this crime to continue and increase, or are we willing to get our city tough on crime and the reputation that criminals are not wanted here.

Comments (17)

Posted by jill
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 24, 2008 at 5:04 pm

All the PC crowd will get their panties in a twist about this they will be worried about peoples sensitivities-- profiling etc

Of course we could have used the money spent on that senseless City Hall Plaza gesture by Doris to buy some CCTVs and prevent an armed robbery

but never mind it is more important to talk about the citys relationship with Iran and force the issue of gay marriage

Posted by Me Too
a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 24, 2008 at 5:15 pm

I don't have a big privacy problem with this, but wonder how effective a limited deployment is. We clearly aren't the pioneer in this, nor should we be. Does anyone know if other towns like us have done this and found it cost effective and good for crime prevention or deterance?

Posted by Me Too
a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 24, 2008 at 5:20 pm

Not sure how compelling, but here's a recent data point...

S.F. video cameras don't deter crime, study shows

Heather Knight, Chronicle Staff Writer

Friday, March 21, 2008

A new UC Berkeley study of San Francisco's 68 security cameras appears to indicate what many city officials have long suspected: The controversial devices perched at the city's roughest street corners don't have much of an effect on violent crime.

The researchers examined 59,706 crimes occurring within 1,000 feet of the cameras between Jan. 1, 2005 and Jan. 28, 2008. While homicides within 250 feet of the cameras were down, they spiked in the areas 250 to 500 feet from the cameras - indicating people just moved down the street to kill each other.

Other violent crimes had no change. The only cameras' only positive effect appears to be the 22 percent drop in property crime within 100 feet of the cameras, though people broke into cars parked near the cameras at the same rate as they did before the cameras were installed, according to the study released today.

The cameras have been a point of contention in recent months between Mayor Gavin Newsom, who wants 25 more installed, and several members of the Board of Supervisors and Police Commission who say they're not doing any good and are an invasion of privacy.

Posted by steve
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 24, 2008 at 5:47 pm

I am in favor of more concealed weapons permits particularly for older citizens

Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 24, 2008 at 5:50 pm


Do you think the teenage girl who was accosted today on her way to school should have been carrying a concealed weapon with her to school?

CCTV would have identified him better than the description and he might be caught by now.

Posted by Waste of Money
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 24, 2008 at 11:03 pm

There was a report on Channel 7 just tonight regarding the 4 young men who held up restaurant customers in the East Bay.

The report said that the pictures taken by the surveillance cameras were just too grainy, and the camera placements wrong so that police were unable to identify the suspects from the pictures taken.

This apparently is a problem with many surveillance cameras. The pictures must be of a certain quality to be of any use in court, and apparently that is very problematic with pictures taken with surveillance cameras today.

Lets not waste money on them until the quality is such that the pictures taken can be used as evidence in Court.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2008 at 9:23 am

Sounds to me that it may be something wrong with the legal system rather than the cameras. If the cameras have helped the police solve the crime, including finding suspects from "grainy" pictures it seems that they have worked. If they can't get above the Defence's clever lawyers and that is the only problem, then the problem is in the courts.

Overseas (eg the UK) get convictions all the time. Is their technology better? If so, get the same cameras they have there. Or, maybe it is the court system and clever lawyers don't get away with calling the pictures too grainy.

Posted by Waste of Money
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 25, 2008 at 11:13 am

Resident: I am an immigrant from the U.K. so I know a little bit about their legal system, also I worked as a legal assistant for many years. The burden of proof is not quite as high for conviction in the U.K.

You are correct, clever defense lawyers have an answer for the latest technology of surveillance cameras. The pictures are too grainy or the features of the accused are simply too indistinct for conviction. That's the job of a defense lawyers to get their client off.

Hopefully, in the case of the 4 young men who held up the restaurant customers in the East Bay, they have other evidence as well as the grainy indistinct surveillance camera pictures.

Posted by jr
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 25, 2008 at 1:45 pm

we need a national register of DNA, we could start by requiring it for the possession of a drivers license, identity card and passport.

The science of DNA detection has improved dramatically in the last few years. It can convict the guilty and release the innocent, unless your oj of course.

Also everyone convicted of violence involving a gun should have to register just like a sex offender does, the have done this in Baltimore with dramatic effect. Combined with more concealed weapons permits for the law abiding this will dramatically deter crime and save time and money.

Posted by PAMD
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 25, 2008 at 3:33 pm

I support the above post, there is a great new development in DNA identification DNA(LTD)

Just about 4 or 5 cells are all that is needed to identify someone through Low Template DNA (LTD) analysis, making it potentially extremely useful.

Standard DNA fingerprinting, by contrast, only works if there are more than 200 cells in the sample.

Posted by Student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 25, 2008 at 7:23 pm

I think that some major research needs to be done to find the MOST EFFECTIVE crime-fighting tools. There have been some studies done and there are some theories out there as to what to do in these types of situations. (if you google crime-fighting tools you will find lots of articles on it) This needs to be a #1 priority, following education. If Palo Alto continues this way, people will leave and it will be come undesirable --> housing prices down --> PA will go downhill.

Many more police officers need to be on duty at all times in as many locations as possible. They need to be on foot, in patrol cars, under disguise, etc. If people see patrol cars everywhere they will be less likely to strike I believe. If PA needs to spend a load of money on this, so be it. Money must be borrowed, money must be spent...I would even bet that some residents would not mind paying money to contribute to crime-fighting forces (ex. camers on their street, etc.)

What is happening is that once crime started getting reported more or increasing, there seemed to have been a spiral of more and more crime. Its like criminals feel like since other people have striked in Palo Alto, its more of a target for them.

My ideas would be to increase: Neighborhood watch programs and crime awareness, patrol cars all around the city, CCTV cameras in as many locations as possible, and HIRE A NEW POLICE CHIEF or new management in that system. This must start at the top with an aggressive chief who is driven to do everything in their power to get these criminals off the streets of Palo Alto.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 26, 2008 at 6:56 am

Student: "many more police officers need to be on duty at all times in as many locations as possible".

And, where do you propose finding those police officers, and more importantly who is going to pay for them? Every year when the salaries and overtime for Police Officers are published, there is a huge outcry at the overtime expenses.

Posted by elena
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 26, 2008 at 4:53 pm

Maybe some of the police who've made it their life's work to investigate the Theater could be diverted to street crime prevention.

Posted by sally
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 26, 2008 at 5:00 pm

Take a look at the comparison in crime rates between EPA and PA hereWeb Link

If our increase in violent crime is related to the EPA crime emergency then the current effort there should help.

Of course the other possibility is that more violent criminal may come to PA for easier targets and softer law enforcement

How could we deter that?

Posted by Mark
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2008 at 3:14 pm

More cameras? A national DNA database? What ever happened to the right to privacy? More importantly, what about appropriate use of tax dollars?

If businesses want to put up cameras on their own property that is their right and I cannot find fault. However, use of public funds for the installation cameras for crime prevention here in Palo Alto would be a serious misallocation of valuable community resources. Instead, why don't we put that money into schools or our roads? If we compare money spent with resulting increases of quality of life I would think the opportunity cost of cameras would be far too high to justify.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2008 at 8:41 am

I say on Fox news today that the City of Richmond is putting in 30 CCTV cameras all over the city. They showed one being installed in a park area where there is a great deal of crime. They said that these cameras would not be monitored 24 hours a day, but would record for 24 hours a day and that the recordings would remain for 140 days and then wiped clean. That does not sound like invasion of privacy. These cameras would be wireless and would be wirelessly looped together so that there would be a mesh of coverage over the city. The cost of this was $5m, but the city would be paying only $1.4m as the rest was coming from grants.

This is the sort of crime fighting we need to do here. Good for Richmond. H

How about a bond for crime cameras rather than all the money being proposed for police building and libraries, some of the money could be spent on CCTV and protect our City rather than this mismatched branch library scheme that only a few will benefit from. We would all benefit from less crime in the area.

Posted by Mark
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 5, 2008 at 3:40 pm

Well, one step at a time. Maybe the cameras won't initially be misused, but misusing existing infrastructure is much easier than misusing non-existing infrastructure. Also, PA vs. Richmond is a poor comparison. Richmond needs all the help it can get, so maybe the use of grants is justified there. PA, on the other hand, could only draw grant money away from communities with greater needs.

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