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Should the Roads to Piedmont Be 'Watched' by Security Cams?

Tiburon snaps a picture of every license plate driving into town. Home invasion robberies have some people wondering if a similar set up could work in Piedmont.

A spate of armed home invasion robberies in Piedmont has residents asking if the roads linking Piedmont to Oakland should be surveilled by video cameras.

“Time to install CCTV around town, especially at the streets leading into town with a big sign that says "SMILE, you've just entered Piedmont" London used them to crack down on the IRA, we need them to protect our residents from the criminals from Oakland. Either that or its time we all gun-up, ” wrote a commenter named Roberto on Piedmont Patch Wednesday.

The precise number of closed-circuit television cameras in London is not publicly known, but a privacy rights group called Big Brother Watch estimates that there are 51,000 police-run cameras in London and other urban areas in Great Britain.

Closer to Piedmont than London, Tiburon placed cameras on the two roads leading to town in 2010. A year later, Tiburon cops were lauding the license plate-reading technology as essential in solving a burglary and reducing crime in the Marin County community by 30 percent.

Tiburon’s peninsular geography makes its use of video cameras more effective and practical than in other towns. For the most part, local law enforcement in Northern California relies on a jumble of private and public video cameras, rather than a centralized police-run system like the one in London.

For example, police tried to identify suspects with video captured by a camera on an AC Transit bus after a fatal shooting at the Bay Fair BART station Saturday afternoon. In San Ramon, police asked residents this week if they would be willing to register their private security cameras so police know they’re there when investigating a nearby crime.

Judging by a street map of Piedmont and Oakland, it looks as if two dozen cameras could accomplish the job of monitoring every road crossing the Piedmont line. What do you think? Would cameras make the city safer, or would they violate the privacy of residents and visitors?

Bart Myers January 24, 2013 at 10:07 PM
I love cameras. We should all get them. They're cheap and good insurance. Check out Dropcam - https://www.dropcam.com/. For the City to get them is a bit tricky though. Are we to imagine that cameras means someone "watching" the cameras. Sounds expensive. Still, getting shots of the perps on foot or the license number on the car could help in tracking them down - and lead to arrests - no? Certainly seems like it would be helpful in these instances.
Bart Myers January 24, 2013 at 10:10 PM
Come to think of it, I wonder if there's a new kind of "Neighborhood Watch" solution here where a collective of citizens each installs outward facing HD cameras, creating a kind of citizen camera mesh security network, and work together to track down evidence to support stopping crime.
Roberto January 24, 2013 at 10:35 PM
they should have a feature that once a stolen car enters Piedmont a broadcast text is sent to all residents that sign up with an alert and picture of the car. That way many eyes are looking out and can call 911 if someone sees the car. Similar to what some schools and colleges are doing with lock-downs.
Roberto January 24, 2013 at 10:37 PM
fire Grote to fund the cameras. At least the cameras won't screw up the undergrounding and Blair Park legal bills.
Roberto January 24, 2013 at 10:39 PM
they can be paid for by the new parcel tax money. They will be a deterrent. The criminals rob where the money is, they know where to go, they will learn where NOT to go too.
Patty White January 25, 2013 at 12:48 AM
I'm all for it!
Mike Savage January 25, 2013 at 12:53 AM
Don't forget that there's also been a rash of burglaries, daylight as well as night. Reading all the comments, it's clear that at least some of our residents have had enough. Cameras are a great first step, both by/through the city, and by individual homeowners, interlinking perhaps with neighbors as has been suggested. And there are other steps. What has been lacking is the willingness to fight for the safety of our homes and families and those of our neighbors, against the thugs that are preying on us.
James rood January 25, 2013 at 01:46 AM
Yes, and immediately, whatever the cost. Jim Rood
Bianca Forrester January 25, 2013 at 02:42 AM
Yes installing cameras is a good option to deter crime, and while I agree with the comments to the effect that a determined criminal will not be scared off by the cameras, that is certainly not a reason not to try this approach. It seems that crimes are becoming increasingly violent - a couple of Albany teens were shot yesterday one in the face by young men inquiring about their shoes! This is frightening, one kid is still in critical condition let's all pray for his recovery. It's getting so scary that I am about to pick up a friend's teen who lives 5 blocks from the high school before the A cappella concert tonight because she doesn't feel safe allowing her daughter to walk that short distance this evening! It's time we take back our town - yes to cameras, yes to increased police presence and thank you PPD for keeping us safe!
Neil Teixeira January 25, 2013 at 02:56 AM
Vehicle "PATROL" is the backbone of all successful policing. Over the years, Piedmont's patrol mileage per squad car has gotten lower, lower & lower. More patrol miles=more visability=less crime. Its that simple.
David Cohen January 25, 2013 at 06:24 AM
Maybe the PRFO could start paying off their debt to Piedmont by sponsoring the installation of a camera system. They could call it a gift!
Concerned resident January 25, 2013 at 08:44 AM
Famous last words: A home invasion robbery in the 100 block of Indian Road the evening of Jan. 7 appears to have targeted a specific household, according to a Piedmont Police Department spokesman. "There's no reason for the public to be concerned" that the robbers will strike again at other Piedmont homes, Detective George Phifer said.
Rick Schiller January 25, 2013 at 09:49 AM
I think Mr. Grote's presumption that hiring more police executives would be helpful should be shelved in favor of a larger patrol force.
Roberto January 26, 2013 at 12:34 AM
Cameras went in in 2009 (article was published in Sept). Crime index in 2008 was 121, rate in 2011 was 72 - that's a 40% drop. Best of all 0 assaults! Piedmont on the other had was 181 in 2011.
Roberto January 26, 2013 at 12:36 AM
Will the PD disclose miles driven on the patrol cars for each of the past 10 years?
Tom Gandesbery January 26, 2013 at 03:53 PM
Though I think your posting of this quote is a bit off topic, I was perplexed as well as by it, as i bet were many readers. I think the Post, Patch and other news reporters need to probe a bit deeper when the police make these sorts of statements. For example, does this mean that the victims were targeted because the perps followed them from somewhere else? Does it mean that the perps are personally connected to the victims? Maybe our new police chief will do a better job of spelling out the risks for us.
Tom Gandesbery January 26, 2013 at 04:13 PM
What does it mean to make such a camera "admissible in court"? I would think that if the City purchased cameras, they would come from a company that has set them up for other agencies and any such issues would have been worked out by now. Security cameras are used to bust criminals all over the country. Besides using the photos in a trial, I think closed circuit cameras could help the police ID vehicles that were recently used in a crime. So for example in one of recent robberies, someone reported that the perps got away in a "large SUV, possibly a Chevy Suburban". The police could have fairly quickly reviewed video of all vehicles and found one or more that met the description and sent that data to the OPD and CHP. Within minutes of the crime. Bottom line: it would be just another tool. But the technology is so inexpensive relative to the cost of police personnel, that I think the City Council and police management need to study the issue.
bobbie January 27, 2013 at 12:04 AM
Solutions to real problems rarely result from knee jerk responses. Even those who care little for their own or other people's privacy should do their research before endorsing the installation of CCTV around town. There is ample empirical research that shows that CCTV fails to cut crime. For instance, huge investments in CCTV in the UK are failing to cut crime, with only 3% of London's street robberies being solved using the footage. see other news articles, e.g. SF Chron March 21, Crime cameras have not had a significant impact on crime rates by Heather Knight. As Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute has said, crime cameras may help prosecutions, but they don't reduce crime. see also http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/03/study-questions-whether-cameras-cut-crime/ http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2006/aug/13/20060813-121827-2123r/
Longtimer January 27, 2013 at 03:37 PM
It is fortunate that the Piedmont voters passed the recent Measure Y parcel tax and ignored those (including some people offering comments above) who illogically urged denying the City an important source of revenue and thereby cutting the City's budget for the purpose of "sending a message" to City Hall that it should be more diligent in holding the line on expenses and employee costs. If the naysayers had prevailed, the enhanced public security costs that are being discussed would have required cutting other line items from the budget which are held dear by Piedmonters. We should explore all options for enhanced security, including installing cameras at the entrances to town, hiring new police officers, increased patrols, etc. The new normal is increased crime in Piedmont (and in our neighbor, Oakland) and the solutions realistically will take substantial expenditures of public funds over several years to get this under control.
David Cohen January 27, 2013 at 06:37 PM
On the other hand, Longtimer might reflect on the fact that the city coffers would be in better shape if the city had indeed held the line on expenses: if, for example, the naysayers had been heeded, and some $300K -$400K had not been shamelessly and corruptly misspent in pursuit of the PRFO fantasy.
Eric G January 27, 2013 at 11:15 PM
I will gladly endure a little invasion of privacy to help deter an invasion of my home . Get em up . Lets go .
Dayna January 28, 2013 at 06:02 AM
I spoke to a Piedmont police officer about the cameras the other day and he wasn't really in support. Sounds like the City is having some serious budgetary issues going and doesn't want to pay for anything like police overtime.Apparently each of these cameras is 16k and there are 16 ways to enter Piedmont. So the start up $ for the cameras alone would be over 250k. He went on to say that they would have a ton of added expenses for the software, data storage, network support,someone to monitor the footage and on and on. He said people didn't realize that cameras really are not a "no brainer" due to infrastructure and ongoing support costs and he doubted this would get done. I found this disheartening. How is it that we live in one of the wealthiest cities in the US but can't afford to protect ourselves from major violence. Piedmont is going to become a much less desirable place to live if this kind of violence continues and we will all suffer in both peace of mind as well as loss of values of our home. Who wants to live in a place where they feel like they are sitting ducks- so scared and vulnerable and where they don't feel they have the support of the city behind them. How sad is it that a young girl is afraid to turn her back to the street while watering the lawn in the middle of the day. Everyone is my neighborhood is talking about arming themselves with guns and getting attack dogs and fences and safe rooms.This is not what we moved to Piedmont for.
garrett Keating January 28, 2013 at 06:51 PM
Both the MTRC (naysayers?) and BAFP (yeasayers?) committees said Piedmont's payroll and benefits structure are "unsustainable". Long-term diligent payroll and benefit control will be needed to enhance public safety infrastrucure and force levels for the new normal.
Jim McCrea January 29, 2013 at 11:19 PM
Why not the gender? The age range? Shoe size? The race of the perpetrator is irrelevant. The fact that these incidents happen is relevant. Would it be any less serious if the perps were not, you know, "those people?" PS: I'm fine with the CCTV proposal(s).
Jim McCrea January 29, 2013 at 11:24 PM
How about a volunteer citizens' patrol under the guidance and training of the PPD?
Jim McCrea January 29, 2013 at 11:28 PM
One way of dealing with overtime is to redo the scheduled hours of work for the different officers. The schedules should reflect the patrol NEEDs, not WANTS.
Rick Schiller January 30, 2013 at 01:56 AM
Jim makes a good point. As I understand our officers are on a 3 day 12 hour shift. Many officers beyond our department support this as they commute less. Is this optimal for the current need? If overtime takes Officers past 12 hours, can the job be done as effectively?
Barbara Eisenbach January 31, 2013 at 07:46 PM
Yes, absolutely, it is necessary to protect the residents particularly children who walk everywhere in Piedmont. Especially since there are increasingly numbers of armed robberies without arrests made, we need to use technology to stay safe and keep our children safe.
lisa January 31, 2013 at 08:03 PM
Lisa, Our family 100% agreed!
Longtimeresident February 01, 2013 at 02:07 AM
A couple of comments. The goal of cameras could and should be to serve as a detterent, in the first instance. The footage would be stored and available if needed to help track down a suspected criminal. It does not need to be a "real time" dispatch and respond system--which the stolen car idea might require. Criminals would be more reluctant to enter town because they would be more likely to get caught. Doesn't need to be "admissible in court" to provide a lead that results in an arrest--plus detterence would occur in either case. I think adding more patrols would be a waste of money. Let's say we have another police car driving around. Sure it might prevent one opportunistic offense. But we have a lot of streets and you can't cover all of them even 5% of the time. As for costs, if the community can even think about raising $5-10 million for a new park on Moraga I expect we can find a way to cover the installation cost of cameras and network storage.

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