Three weeks after we published first word of the Homeland Security-funded, Seattle Police-managed surveillance cameras installed from Alki to Fauntleroy – and destined for dozens of other spots in the city – the City Council committee that approved them last year will talk about them again. We had first word last week from Councilmember Bruce Harrell that the Public Safety, Technology, and Civil Rights Committee, which he chairs, will talk about them during its meeting tomorrow at 2 pm. Here’s the official reminder sent out today:
Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Council’s Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee, will have the Seattle Police Department at the committee table this Wednesday to discuss the port security cameras along Seattle’s shoreline. The security cameras are part of a wireless Mesh Network, a network composed of wireless access points and fiber optic cables around the city to provide first responders like SPD, Fire, and the Coast guard access to a dedicated wireless network during emergency responses.
The equipment included in the funding package from the Port Security Grant Program is vital in advancing our goal to make Seattle the most prepared city in America. City departments, along with regional and federal partners determined prevention and protection was not adequately represented in the region. Such prevention, protection and response capabilities is particularly important for public safety to the Port of Seattle, the sixth busiest in the US, Harbor Island, Washington State Ferry terminals, and cruise ship terminals.
At the committee hearing in May of 2012, the committee determined that SPD had made a strong business case for the use of these public safety cameras as part of the municipal mesh network for use only on waterways, port facilities and facing the Puget Sound. Installation of surveillance cameras installed in recreational/residential zones for general surveillance was and will not be supported by the committee.
Before the cameras can go online, the committee will have legislation in place to restrict and regulate its use to protect the public’s privacy and civil liberties.
While cameras were mentioned by SPD in the May 2012 committee briefing, Councilmember Harrell said they were not at the time described as being destined for recreational/residential areas – yet the six that were up in West Seattle by the time WSB readers pointed them out to us in late January are all in such areas.
Mayor McGinn, meantime, first told WSB on February 11th that the cameras would get a “thorough vetting” before they can be turned on.
The system apparently has been on the drawing boards since long before even the Council discussions last spring; the first version of the camera map shown publicly, displayed to us at Police HQ downtown February 1st and then published on SPD Blotter February 4th, is dated July 2010 – follow the link and note the lower-left corner.
P.S. All WSB coverage on this topic, dating back to when we broke the news about the cameras January 29th, is archived here, newest to oldest.