There’s a new police presence on 23rd Avenue near the Garfield Community Center, but it doesn’t involve any living members of the force. The city has installed cameras on utility poles and traffic signals in the area, giving East Precinct officers a whole new investigative tool – one that is already being used to help solve the most recent shooting that occurred there last week.
East Precinct Captain Paul McDonagh says that the cameras were installed as an initiative of the mayor’s office, focusing on city park properties that have a history of criminal activity. The area around the Garfield Community Center made the list after a series of high-profile shootings there last year, such as the one that killed Quincy Coleman and another that blinded Donnie Cheatham.
Although SPD does not have direct control of the cameras and does not monitor them in real-time, recordings are made and kept available for a limited time. SPD officials can then request access to those recordings for specific crimes they’re investigating, as they’ve reportedly done in the shooting incident on July 5th. Detectives in that case have requested the video from that time period and are using it as part of their ongoing investigation.
Captain McDonagh says that the recorded footage will typically only be used for major crimes such as assaults, robberies, and shootings. He hopes that they can provide small clues to help larger investigations, such as capturing the license plate of a fleeing vehicle, or the face of a suspect that is already known to police.
Legally speaking, city prosecutors tell me that any criminal act that happens in public is fair game to this type of surveillance system, as there is no expectation of privacy when someone is out on a public street. However, the law would not allow them to be fixed on a private property to capture illegal activity that might happen inside a house or fenced yard.
An SPD officer has told me that they think the cameras are already having an effect on the area, saying that gang members have noticed them and appear to have taken their activity to other places. If you’re wondering how that could be with the incident just last week, it’s possible that the assailants in that case were from a different neighborhood and not aware of the camera’s installation on that corner.
A previous installation of cameras at Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill created a minor uproar among city council members due to the fact that they didn’t specifically provide for them in the city budget. We made several calls to councilmembers and various city departments to get the specifics on how these were funded and whether they fall in that same category, but so far have not heard back. We’ll let you know if we do.
It is about time. How about a few more along Yesler and Jackson. One at Jackson & MLK would be great and Jackson & 29th for that matter!
I agree, some cameras on Yesler and Jackson will be really good too.
big brother is here!
They have em in other major cities, it’s time to do it here. More Big Brother, if it will curtail and clean up the hoods.
26-27 and yesler
…You’re on Candid Criminal!
Bottom line: If you are in public, you can be filmed and photographed. And not just by the government, but by ANYONE.
That’s what being in public means. I actually kinda like the cameras, just because keep you from having a false sense of privacy. They remind you that anyone who wants to can film you in public.
I guess this is somehow cheaper than having a couple neighborhood beat cops on foot / on bike, sh*t I don’t care if they’re on a damn skateboard.
SPD has some great guys, but we don’t get to see enough of them up here that aren’t whizzing by in a car. An officer should be strolling through that intersection at least a few times every evening, just taking in the scene.
Its ABout Time ! They SHould Of Been Had This If Theres SO Much Crime Hatred & Drug Trafficking In The CD . Find A Way To Put A Stop To It !!! STAY ON TOP OF YOUR GAME SPD .
I think it’s a smart move to put these in public places that are known to have high incidents of violent crime. I would like to see more beat cops but ultimately the police can’t be where they need to be 24-7 so this will allow them to have eyes there when something does happen or deter it from happening in our streets.
This will make it safer for the rest of us to walk down the streets of our own neighborhood.