“The cameras are unwarranted and unneeded,” said Rick Callejon, community liaison for a group of citizens and merchants called Ocean Beach Citizens Against Privacy Abuse (OBCAPA). “They are a waste of taxpayer dollars.”
Proponents say it’s an absolutely essential and appropriate move to protect residents along Ocean Beach's waterfront.
“We feel this is a reasonable approach to (counter) a lot of the crime that has happened on the beachfront,” said Denise (Denny) Knox, executive director of the Ocean Beach Main Street Association (OBMA) Business Improvement District. “If this aids the police and the lifeguard in solving crime or other problems that are happening, we're for it.”
“As a group the Ocean Beach Historical Society will not be taking a position on the proposed camera installations,” said the group's president Pat James. But James added, “Personally, I believe 10 cameras is overkill. I would have to ask are any necessary? A big concern to me are the aesthetics; do we really want a bunch of cameras cluttering up the scenery?”
Callejon said OBCAPA is “opposed to spending $25,000 of taxpayer money earmarked for the project, which would be better spent on outreach and counseling for the homeless, to address the needs of the OB library or the crumbling lifeguard tower.
“The decision to allocate the money from Councilwoman Lorie Zapf's office to the police was done with virtually no community input.”
OBCAPA is organizing community forums to discuss the issue, said Callejon, noting, “We have invited Zapf and police representatives to join us at these forums so that issues concerning the process of funding and recorded surveillance can be publicly aired.
“Lifeguards and police have said that they don't have the staffing to monitor the cameras,” Callejon noted adding, “No crime statistics justify the implementation of the security devices. The police 'hope' that the cameras will serve as a deterrent to criminal activity. However, studies show that when cameras are in place, illegal activity migrates to nearby neighborhoods out of the range of the cameras.”
Knox said the possibility of beefing up beachfront security is an issue that has been discussed – and desired – for years.
“We've been working on this issue of crime in OB for a long time,” Knox said. “We know it's nearly impossible to convict anyone unless individuals see them (committing crimes). It's ridiculous. At least (with surveillance cameras) we would have one way to go back, over a very short period of time, a video recording to see if the crime really happened. It's a good tool. Certainly, we don't have enough police officers, and we don't have enough lifeguards.”
“In a free and open society, people should be able to visit the beach without government recording their activities,” replied Callejon. “What surveillance overwhelmingly captures are the innocent activities of law-abiding citizens. Other, more effective alternatives exist to deal with concerns about crime, including improved lighting and increased police presence.”
Reportedly, surveillance cameras are to be installed from under the pier to Dog Beach on existing public structures with power. Each camera will overlap the camera next to it (an important safety/security feature that ensures the videos will be authentic). The monitors and recording equipment will be in the lifeguard station.