San Francisco

Castro Surveillance Camera Plan Raises Privacy Concerns

NBC Universal, Inc.

Crime concerns have sparked a new idea to add security cameras in San Francisco's Castro District, but some community groups say cameras aren’t the answer and raise concerns about privacy.

“What’s wrong with making sure that everything is safe? This is a vulnerable area,” said San Francisco resident Tery Frank. He agrees with the idea of adding public safety cameras to help address crime concerns.

“A couple times someone pushed and kicked in this gate and came into our building and stole stuff and tried to get into our apartment so when I think  of it in those terms it’s a very good thing,” he said. 

Andrea Aiello is executive director of the Castro Community Benefit District, the group considering putting in public safety cameras.

“We get rashes of broken windows that just drives everybody, the merchants, it's very expensive to fix those plate glass windows residents are appalled,” she said, adding she’s heard the privacy concerns and says policies would be strict.

“There is absolutely no sharing of video for any other reason but for investigation of a crime and in order to get access to the video law enforcement has to complete an application and a form and has to be approved,” she said. 

The cameras would be funded by donations from a tech investor and political donor.

“It gets uploaded into a portal and then we give law enforcement access to the portal and they can use the video. All video is destroyed after 30 days,” she said. “The policy again would have no live monitoring.”

Lee Hepner with the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democtractic Club said, “If surveillance cameras prevented crime in San Francisco or in the Castro, then the hundreds of individually-owned cameras that are already in the Castro would be doing that job,” he said. “The only thing this does is provide a centralized surveillance network that we know will be used to target immigrants, poor people, Black and brown people, queer people in a beacon of free expression which is the castro neighborhood.”

The proposal is still being discussed, no word on when a final decision will be made.

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