A streetlight camera in downtown San Diego / Photo by Megan Wood

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This post originally appeared in the March 3 Morning Report. Sign up for the newsletter here.

The San Diego Police Department will host a series of public meetings next week to gather feedback on a new proposal. Officials want to reinstall and regain access to 500 streetlight cameras and add license plate readers.

They argue that the single surveillance network will aid investigations and responses to critical incidents while easing the department’s staffing shortage.

It is, as the Union-Tribune reported, the first big push for surveillance technology since the City Council approved, and Mayor Todd Gloria signed, an ordinance governing the acquisition and use of devices capable of gathering images and other data in public rights of way. Next week’s meetings are a requirement of that ordinance.

The proposal will also need to go before the city’s Privacy Advisory Board. Though established almost a year ago, the board has yet to convene. Police plan to meet with the board on March 15. The public comment period ends the day before.

Where to even begin? As Jesse Marx reported in 2020, the smart streetlight system was pitched as a public-private partnership to foster civic innovation and collect mobility and environmental data. But it became a tool for investigators until it was (kindasorta) shut down that same year following concerns over privacy and civil liberties.

The original $30 million project was supposed to pay for itself through energy savings. The new cost to install the cameras and license plate readers: $4 million.

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  1. Since I quit the Democratic Party after 50 straight years on the nose, I say do it, man! I am sick and tired over these low lives in San Diego. Lock em up, now!

  2. REGARDING:”500 New Lights Including Cameras Proposed” (A1-03.05) This measure is long overdue and necessary in order to control an out-of-

    control citizenry. Those who oppose arming the bulls with more ammunition on the basis of privacy are scapegoating the rule of law. As someone who

    walks and runs at least six miles a day, fifty-two weeks a year, I have seen it all including running red lights, speeding in school and construction zones,

    not yielding to pedestrians in marked crosswalks, tailgating and even driving cars on public sidewalks. This must stop and supporting this measure will

    save lives and make for a more livable city. Daniel Smiechowski Bay Ho

  3. 1984?
    Next stop China to get facial recognition software – it would sure make their job a lot easier 😉

  4. Well good on ya there Daniel. However as a TR / civil libertarian lifelong Republican I say HELL NO to this boiling frog theft of what remains of my civil liberties. If you don’t watch EVERYONE in power you can wave goodbye to your ACTUAL freedom. As a third generation San Diegan its clear this town – while it may have gone blue – is still a conservative navy town at heart.

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