« Where's Larry? | Main | Il Piccolo Players on TV »

June 25, 2006


just looking

I like the idea of cameras downtown a lot. It's time we used technology to help with things that we don't have enough money to solve with manpower.

Joe Baylock

Here's an excerpt from the yesterday's Sunday S.F. Chronicle:

Clovis, Fresno County -- Police Capt. Bob Keyes spent a recent afternoon patrolling this Central Valley city with a keypad rather than a Crown Victoria.

"Can you read that?" Keyes asked. He had swiveled his office chair toward a television displaying the view from one of the more than 100 surveillance cameras in the city of 90,000, and then zoomed in on a small protest sign held by a woman at a downtown rally.

Toggling from a camera that bird-dogs downtown bars to one that scans a Target store parking lot, Keyes said, "This one was used earlier today to catch a theft suspect." Then -- click -- it was over to the skateboard park. "Mom and Dad can see if Johnny is or isn't doing what he should be," Keyes said, adding that the city might put that camera online.

That was only a taste. Extra eyes watch the jail, the schools, a walking trail, an art piece and the wastewater plant. Monitoring screens are in commanders' offices, at dispatch stations and inside each patrol car. Officers even use footage to assign blame in some traffic accidents.

Clovis' 5-year-old camera system, considered cutting edge by some and Orwellian by others, may provide something else: a picture of the Bay Area's future. Such monitoring is rare in the region, but probably not for long.

Thanks in part to money from anti-terrorism grants, San Francisco and several other Bay Area cities have started installing police cameras at high-crime locations, or places that are heavily trafficked or considered to be possible attack targets.

Surveillance technology "will become hand-in-glove to traditional policing," Thomas Nestel III, said in a telephone interview. Nestel is a Philadelphia police inspector who studied camera programs for his master's thesis at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey. "It will change policing like vehicles did."

I think a simple test of such cameras for downtown surveillance would be very insightful and would save officer time and City money. Putting the video feed on-line for public viewing seems much more complicated, but for BPD use this seems like a no-brainer.


Big Brother is watching...


Joe Baylock

For some reason, I cannot find this front page article on the San Mateo County Times' website, but here is an excerpt of what reporter Todd Brown writes:

Cameras catch illegal dumping

San Mateo contractor accused of leaving carpet in vacant lot 23 times

South San Francisco--Talk about getting nailed by Big Brother.

A subcontractor for a local carpet installer has been hit with a lawsuit by the city of San Francisco alleging that he illegally dumped carpets in a vacant lot 23 times over nearly eight months. The man was caught by wireless cameras that transmitted images from the Bayview lot to a pair of laptops....

The suit, filed last week in Superior Court in San Francisco, asks for $25,673 for the clean-up and investigation into the dumping and other penalties for diminished property value that (Deputy City Attorney Yvonne) Mere said could reach six figures.

The cameras could go a ways towards solving the dumping problems we have near city parking lots downtown as well as the growing graffiti problem.

Patrick Jensen

I don't like the idea of cameras. What would cameras catch on tape but a bunch of drunken morons who are not easily identifiable?

Are we going to spend the limited police manpower having investigators pour over tapes of public urination?

The extra costs of policing the nightclubs can be recouped through stiffer fines or making it more difficult for these clubs to open without adequate staff to control the clientele.

Burlingame does not need to flip the switch from small town living to a police state...

Joe Baylock

Sorry, but I must disagree. First, the main purpose is not to catch the one-off offenses of drunken morons, but rather the repeat offenders of dumping and graffiti. That's what the SSF example shows (23 violations) and what the Tipping Point highlights--get the guy who commits the same crime 20 times. The good news about college kids puking in the streets is they don't do it 10 weekends in a row...they are slightly smarter than that.

Second, the "limited manpower" is the manpower on the street, not the manpower sitting in the station with time to review the tapes when they are not doing other things that need immediate attention. Once you run something out to a computer disk, you can review it whenever. My overriding impression of my ride-along was that it was something new every 10 minutes.

Lastly, we can't exactly put the full burden on the clubs. Street drug dealing, graffiti, dumping and fist fights are not always the fault of the clubs. This is especially true when we sit between San Mateo and Daly City in a West Side Story-type scenario. Besides, the numbers don't add up. You would have to increase simple fines to $2,000 to fund even one more officer, vehicle, and his or her pension fund.

I think the cameras would do more to keep this a small town than you think. Thanks for getting me to think about this even more. Discussion is healthy and I respect your opinion.


We don't clamor about cameras at banks, 7-11's, large commercial buildings, condo complexes or private homes. All of the above have cameras rolling to help them solve crimes. So why wouldn't we want to give this tool to our local cops -- especially in areas where we know trouble occurs frequently.

As far as cameras go- everyone carries one on his or her cellphone. Might as well give the police another tool to help them keep our small town and small, safe town.

Pete Garrison


Joe: I wonder if you were riding along the night we got a ticket on our truck for expired plates?
We do not have good light on the street outside of our house--so the policeman had to really shine that light on the truck. Our plates were not expired--as the police dept. verified when I called them to ask why we have a $50 ticket--took the woman at the station less than a minute to run the plate through her computer--the policeman spent more time than that writing a ticket in the dark outside of our house...on a fully registered vehicle. I am all in favor of cameras and crime stopping activity. Seems like a much better use of time than driving around at night in our neighborhoods looking for allegedly expired plates...

Joe Baylock


The only good thing about spam on the site is that it sometimes brings back threads that were good in the past. While the officer I was with ran a quite a few plates, none of the inquiries were for expired plates. I'll bet you didn't get the mistaken ticket on a Fri or Sat night.

Apparently there are cameras in the works for enforcing one El Camino stoplight, but I haven't heard of any progress on using it for basic monitoring of our downtown "scene". Of course, with one of the main bars being closed, things appear to have quieted down a bit, but it still strikes me as a good use of scarce funds.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

About the Voice

  • The Burlingame Voice is dedicated to informing and empowering the Burlingame community. Our blog is a public forum for the discussion of issues that relate to Burlingame, California. On it you can read and comment on important city issues.

    Note: Opinions posted on the Burlingame Voice Blog are those of the poster and not necessarily the opinion of the editorial board of the Burlingame Voice. See Terms of Use

Contributing to the Voice

  • If you would like more information on the Burlingame Voice, send an email to editor@burlingamevoice.com with your request or question. We appreciate your interest.

    Authors may login here.

    For help posting to the Voice, see our tutorial.