Community Post

More on Surveillance Cameras: Funding, How they Work

Last week we told you about the new surveillance cameras that the city has put up around the Garfield Community Center. Since then we’ve been able to get a few more details on the installation and how it has been funded.

According to Parks Department spokesperson Dewey Potter, the cameras were installed to provide security for people around the community center. The total cost was $90,407, sourced from a Parks capital fund that is designed to improve security and add lighting in the city’s park facilities.

There was a big controversy last year when cameras were added to Cal Anderson Park without a specific appropriation by the city council. I spoke to a staff person in Councilmember Rasmussen’s office who said that while that was eventually worked out between the mayor’s office and the council, more recent budgeting woes prompted the council to take away the surveillance camera money and apply it to other needs. She wasn’t aware of this more recent installation and couldn’t immediately say whether it complied with the council’s budget requirements.

A few more details on the installation:

  • There are three cameras: one at 23rd & Cherry, one at 23rd & James, and one at 23rd & Jefferson
  • The cameras are not routinely monitored, but can be accessed and monitored live by 911 dispatchers and Seattle police command staff “only when there is a 9-1-1 call reporting a crime in progress, when a police officer sees a crime in progress, or during a declared state of emergency.” 
  • SPD staff can access the cameras to support ongoing investigations if they have a reasonable suspicion to believe a crime has occurred within the camera’s field of vision
  • The cameras are recorded 24/7 and retained for two weeks, unless the city is directed to keep them for longer due to an investigation, a court order, or other possible use in a legal proceeding.

The cameras seem to be popular with residents so far, with only 6% of respondents expressing disapproval in our unscientific online poll. Many commenters on the original story asked whether they could get cameras at other locations around the neighborhood. According to the parks spokesperson, there are no plans to add additional cameras anywhere else in the Central District.

I’ll be on KUOW at around 12:45pm to talk about the camera issue. Tune in!

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