Surveillance in Hayes Valley?

As many of you know, last year we were apprised of a potential plan for a camera system to be installed in our neighborhood. After a brief meeting back in April of 2021 and little details — we have checked in periodically and were informed that there was “zero movement” on the project.

Suddenly this month out of the blue we received a prompt that the program was back on the table. A meeting was held today by SFSafe. Listen to Richard’s takeaways regarding details shared about the camera program.

Other key points that are not in this exchange:

  • The decision to bring this camera program to Hayes Valley has not been vetted by the community at large
  • There’s a concerning lack of transparency regarding process
  • The head of the HVMA (Hayes Valley Merchants Association) is also seeking to position cameras at Patricia’s Green

Other HVSafe points of concern and questions about this program:

  • Where are the stats that point to this program’s efficacy?
  • What other neighborhood corridors have had this camera program installed? We would like to hear from them on their first hand experience with this program.
  • When was funding for this program identified/allocated. What is the budget amount? Who is behind the funding? Is it Avenue Greenlight?
  • We’re looking to obtain a copy of the agreement/contract that property owner’s sign to authorize being on this camera network.
  • Last year we heard “if people don’t want cameras we won’t force this” – which begs the question: why aren’t we having a conversation about bringing cameras to our neighborhood with the community/neighbors at large?
  • After doing more outreach over the last week —one thing that has come up over and over again was the question: “where has the community outreach been on this?”  We’re asking for details on efforts put forth to inform the Hayes Valley community at large. Who is responsible for making the decision to bring this program to Hayes Valley without a proper vetting process with the community?
  • HVSafe informed its members last year about the possibility of this program – since then we have not heard anything from SFSafe. Specifically we want to know what has transpired since the end January to this month. (Last email we received from the Director of SFSafe was on 1/27/22 where she states : “No update regarding the camera program. There has been zero movement since we last met.”  Who was having the conversation since then about this program and why are we now just hearing about it with a phase 1 being rolled out?
  • We have concerns about the possibility of racial profiling.
  • Most store merchants already have surveillance. SFPD does not have resources or political support to pursue perpetrators of criminal activity. It’s highly unlikely that cameras in public spaces will be any more effective. While the need for surveillance in high profile public spaces that are potential targets for terrorism is understandable, the impulse to blanket public spaces and streets with video surveillance is a terrible idea.

Based on the details shared from this meeting and your feedback/input, we have compiled a number of questions and are in the process of collecting more info.

Update Thursday April 14, 2022

Since the 2nd meeting on this project “regarding the rollout of phase 1” was cancelled we’ve reached out to the Director of SFSAFE with a thorough inquiry. We’ll report back with answers provided.

This is a fluid situation and we will keep you updated here.

Recommended reads on camera surveillance

The notion that carpeting a city with cameras will prevent crime is a fiction, even if there are real-time and immediate consequences to being caught on camera. In short, without enabling a police state, ubiquitous cameras are not the answer.

Much of Larsen’s investment has been in the city’s wealthiest or gentrifying neighborhoods, which raises questions about how redistributing his $4 million investment might have chipped away at this problem from a different angle, especially considering that in San Francisco, an individual earning under $82,000 a year is considered low-income.

The fallacy behind private surveillance cameras in San Francisco

Surveillance might seem harmless enough since it’s so normalized; we’re unthinkingly captured on camera dozens of times per day, not even noticing anymore the lenses trained on us as we walk into department stores or enter our own apartment buildings. It’s easy, then, to shrug off concerns on the assumption that the cameras are effective in deterring criminals or otherwise fighting crime — though there’s extremely limited evidence they actually do either of those things.

The Brooklyn subway attack shows the surveillance state won’t save you