Despite questions about the effectiveness of a 2-year-old surveillance camera program, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom will seek month to add 25 cameras, says the San Francisco Chronicle. The move would bring to 93 the number of anti-crime cameras installed in the city since July 2005, costing a total of $700,000. Before that happens, the city plans to sign a contract with University of California researchers who would, for the first time, try to figure out whether the cameras are preventing or solving crime.
“The community is under the impression that the cameras are working, but there hasn’t been any evidence,” said Commissioner Joe Alioto Veronese. The cameras have been criticized because they have helped police make just one arrest, for an attempted murder, in more than two years. Newsom and Police Chief Heather Fong said the cameras prevent some crimes from happening at all – a benefit that is difficult to measure – and make people feel safer. Many surveillance experts and police officials in other cities question whether San Francisco’s program can succeed if police do not monitor the cameras in real time. A city law, prompted by civil liberties concerns, allows police to request footage only after a crime occurs. Police inspectors ask for footage about twice a month and only in the most serious cases. In other cities, police use cameras to bust drug users and dealers and even to sort out traffic collisions.