What do you think about being watched? Comment time for city surveillance technologies, including West Seattle meeting

(WSB photo from 2013: One of the camera/”wireless mesh” installations on Alki)

When the city installed federally funded surveillance cameras almost six years ago – starting on Alki – the concern was as much about the fact the installation was unannounced and (until we followed up on readers’ questions) unexplained, as it was about the cameras themselves. The cameras were eventually deactivated and, earlier this year, removed. Along the way, city leaders promised to be clearer about what and how would be used in the future – by all departments, not just SPD. As part of the process, a comment period has just opened for six of 29 “currently existing surveillance technologies” covered by the city Surveillance Ordinance, passed last year. And that will include a meeting in West Seattle. Full details are in this post, which explains:

… The City of Seattle has published the first draft of Surveillance Impact Reports (SIRs) for six of the 29 currently existing surveillance technologies, per the Surveillance Ordinance. We’re looking for the public’s input on the SIRs to help the provide Council with insight into community perspective and ensure City policies responsibly govern the use of these technologies.

The public comment period opens Monday, October 8, and runs through Monday, November 5. … We have three ways to allow residents to provide input and share their concerns.

Residents can submit their surveillance comments online at: City of Seattle Privacy website.
Seattle residents can also mail comments to Attn: Surveillance & Privacy Program, Seattle IT, PO Box 94709, Seattle, WA 98124

Public Engagement Sessions: The City will hold a series of five community meetings … The meetings will include a presentation on the technologies, followed by small group discussions. These will be facilitated to allow attendees to interact with members of their community, ask questions, hear from technology experts in the department. Attendees may also provide written comment at the meetings, without staying the entire time.

The West Seattle meeting – which will focus on License Plate Readers, Traffic Cameras, Emergency Scene Cameras, and HazMat Cameras – is scheduled for 5 to 6:30 pm Thursday, October 25th, at Southwest Library (9010 35th SW). You can find out more about the city’s surveillance technologies and rules by going here.

OCTOBER 17 UPDATE: The location has been changed to American Legion Post 160, 3618 SW Alaska.

36 Replies to "What do you think about being watched? Comment time for city surveillance technologies, including West Seattle meeting"

  • Swede. October 9, 2018 (1:57 pm)

    29 different ways!? I’m not even a fan of one!

    • The King October 10, 2018 (4:20 pm)

      Don’t worry, they will only use this technology against those who want to be free.

  • Scott October 9, 2018 (2:35 pm)

    Yes, get them suckers working and lets move on and fight crime.

  • West Seattle Hipster October 9, 2018 (2:37 pm)

    What’s the point of having surveillance cameras if the police and courts are not enforcing the laws consistently?

  • heyalki October 9, 2018 (3:03 pm)

    sounds like a waste of money

  • KM October 9, 2018 (3:10 pm)

    Any way we can convert them to traffic cameras to help manage road safety?

    • WSB October 9, 2018 (3:23 pm)

      The surveillance cameras, as noted at the start of the story, were taken down months ago. (And, the city noted, were outdated by then anyway.)

    • Jort October 9, 2018 (4:50 pm)

      I fully support the use of automated technologies to enhance road safety, including speed governors on cars within city limits and automated bus lane and speeding tickets.

      Additionally, I support using radar — not for the “speed flasher” signs — but to automatically turn lights red at the next intersection when the radar detects a speeding automobile. This is a common sense safety measure that will save lives.

      • LJ October 9, 2018 (6:15 pm)

        I recently read an article about how the DEA is using some of those “speeded flasher signs” to scan license plates of every vehicle that passes them.

      • Swede. October 9, 2018 (9:22 pm)

        That will off course also apply to bicycles right? Because 25mph IS 25mph for everyone…

        • Jort October 10, 2018 (12:04 am)

          Since bicyclists are responsible for causing roughly 0 percent of road fatalities (unlike automobile drivers, who are responsible for one of America’s greatest causes of unintentional death, and for whom speeding is one of the most frequent contributors to death and serious injury), I’m curious why you’re so concerned about law enforcement of cyclists.

          When cyclists break traffic laws, it frequently annoys car drivers as well as hurting their feelings, which I must admit is really sad and also sometimes a super bummer!

          But, on the other hand, when motorists break traffic laws, they often kill and seriously injure others on the roadway. Maybe – and this is just a possibility, I don’t know – maybe you’re proposing a false equivalency?

          In any case, if you’d like to dedicate the incredible resources involved in making sure that cyclists aren’t going faster than 35 miles per hour on 35th Ave SW, then, you know, sure. I, for one, would be quite impressed to see that happen. Do you actually know how fast cyclists usually go? You might be disappointed…

          But please don’t let logic or necessity get in the way of a good old fashioned dump on those crazy irritating cyclists and their stop sign running oh they just drive me nuts oh oh oh!

          • Swede. October 10, 2018 (7:34 pm)

            Was more pointing out your hypocrisy since you are well on own to want to put bikes before anything. So obvious the cops should give you and your friends tickets for speeding. No helmet and such. And I can honestly say I don’t know the statistics where bikers broken the law and injured or kill themselves or others. It’s likely much more than you think because when someone thinks relights don’t apply to bikes and drivers might have to stomp on the brakes they are still responsible right since they broke the law.
            20-25mph isn’t an unreasonable speed on flat road with no wind for a bicycle in my experience. 35-40mph needs a bit more assistance for sure but can be done.

  • Reality October 9, 2018 (3:38 pm)

    Can’t wait for the “stop the government from watching us” crowd to start wringing their hand’s about the danger’s of “big brother” watching us. They’re the one’s that stay SILENT when WSB and other media show video of porch pirates and other miscreants taken by homeowners camera’s. They stay SILENT about internet companies that follow your every move. They stay SILENT about credit card companies that track your every purchase. They stay SILENT about cell phone companies tracking your every move. If you don’t want to be tracked-great, just do the right thing and go after EVERYBODY. If you only go after the police/government watching then you have NO credibility-NONE

    • Michael October 9, 2018 (6:19 pm)

      Nice straw man. I encourage you to take a deep breath and a break from putting words in other people’s mouths to instead honestly meditate on the merits of strong privacy for individuals.

  • Sarch October 9, 2018 (4:03 pm)

    Traffic cameras for ticketing instead of police pursuit would be a huge step forward. Right now ticketing moving violations takes a ton of SPD bandwidth (when they even have bandwidth) and usually blocks traffic too.

  • Jethro Marx October 9, 2018 (4:33 pm)

    Here’s some feedback: do it, don’t do it, whatever; make a decision and stick with it. I’d rather be surveilled than have the city constantly asking for our feedback in a constant morass of public comment periods and sparsely attended meetings. How about elected officials just take the fact that they won an election as some kind of license to do the job they were elected for and make some decisions. Sheesh- this is why I don’t vote.

    • Eric1 October 9, 2018 (9:38 pm)

      OMG… I agree with Jethro.
      Except the voting part. You gotta punch the ballot no matter how distasteful the candidates are. I usually vote for GoodSpaceGuy at least once a year. The sad thing is he usually doesn’t come in last….

  • Craig October 9, 2018 (4:47 pm)

    I’m surprised at the ire that this generates. My perspective is it’s no different than having a uniformed officer standing there observing. Like the ones they post on Alki in the summer now. All good by me. Watch me all you want.

    BTW, your smart phone, the one you just checked Facebook with – It’s documenting your every location, who you correspond with, more than this camera ever will.

  • JeffK October 9, 2018 (4:52 pm)

    If it takes a judge or something more than just police casually accessing the cameras and it’ll catch some of the yahoos around here then I don’t mind.

  • Joe October 9, 2018 (4:54 pm)

    Bring them on! Vacationing in anew York City and the place is covered in csmeras and I feel a whole lot safer than I do in Seattle. These is no expectation of ‘privacy’ when on a public sidewalk, road, park, beach. Privacy is expected inside my home when the shades are drawn.

    BTW, the word privacy is not in the Constitution.

    • Ken October 9, 2018 (10:44 pm)

      Stupendous comment Joe! Very well written.

    • A. October 26, 2018 (3:21 am)

      The 4th Amendment mentions “the right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches…shall not be violated…”, not just to be secure in their homes. 

  • WS Guy October 9, 2018 (5:09 pm)

    My place is rigged with cameras that watch the street, porch, yard… everything is recorded.

  • Chris October 9, 2018 (5:42 pm)

    We have been wondering if there is one on the corner of California Ave S W and S W Massachusetts St. It is across the street from ParkWest Nursing Home. We keep looking at it wondering what it is? Anyone know?

  • cjboffoli October 9, 2018 (5:58 pm)

    This very morning an SPD detective appeared at my door, hat in hand, asking me for access to my private security camera footage in the hope that it would reveal some clues about a violent armed robbery in my neighborhood in the wee hours of morning.

    How do I feel about law enforcement having direct access to a record of people and vehicles passing through the public right of way (where people are in a PUBLIC PLACE and can already be seen and recorded)? I feel perfectly fine about it.

  • KayK October 9, 2018 (6:24 pm)

    Does any one know what the cameras are on power lines near Riverview Playfields? Near corner of 11th and Webster? Not much there to see. Does City Light use them to help keep track of the grid?

  • JayDee October 9, 2018 (6:31 pm)

    If you chose to surveil your property…Great. Go for it. But not the widespread use of government surveillance. The crap rationale they offered up in 2013 (“it will let us catch terrorists”…) will likely be trotted out again. Well, not really, only after the fact when people have died.

    This is similar to the argument that cyclists need to wear reflective vests and helmets to protect them from cars (rather than separated traffic lanes that themselves make cyclists safer). Cameras don’t prevent crime but they may make it easier to prosecute offenders after the damage has been done.

    I will review the uses but I am anticipating it will be a revenue generation device and a feel-good pablum. I do not want to be surveilled by the government under an excuse to expand the bureaucracy and intrusiveness regardless of the rationale. Just because they can do it doesn’t mean it should be done or that it is a good idea.

  • Nancy R. October 9, 2018 (7:29 pm)

    The title “what do you think about being watched?” is going to get a bunch of people saying that they don’t like to be watched, boo cameras. If you ask “do you support surveillance cameras to reduce violent crime”, then most will say “Sure I support reducing violent crime through the use of cameras”. As social media has become pervasive, privacy has become less important for many people and is almost a moot point.

    • WSB October 9, 2018 (7:53 pm)

      Thanks for the comment on the headline, but this isn’t just about police cameras – it isn’t even just about cameras. I open with the camera recap because that (aside from the uproar that forced SPD to give back drones) was a significant episode of public discussion about surveillance. Follow the links to see the 20+ types of surveillance technologies the city’s ordinance covers. And whether you’re pro, con, undecided, this is your chance to tell them. Or not. – TR

  • Ws prayers October 9, 2018 (9:02 pm)

    I am for them-I will be at this mtg-there have been enough crimes in West Seattle (especially the homicides) where the suspects could have been caught-had there been surveillance they might have caught them by now-as well as numerous other crimes-I believe it keeps our city safer-maybe criminals will even think twice if they know they will be on camera to actually commit a crime

  • steve October 9, 2018 (9:52 pm)

    Since we’re on the subject, how do we get the police to keep their cameras on, instead of when they want to?

  • 935 October 10, 2018 (6:41 am)

    here’s an easier thought…

    Why don’t we tone down the “anti police” rhetoric and actually support the police. Stop suing them (or attempting to), stop harassing them for doing their job.

    Maybe then they’ll stop the de-policing they’re not doing and quit worrying about being labelled racists, misyoginsts, thugs or any other nasty moniker thrown about these days.

    Instead of by hoping for some video (or audio) panacea, we’ve already bought and paid for a police force – why don’t we use it.

    • Joe October 10, 2018 (5:18 pm)

      To repeat an overused phrase, it really does ‘take a community’. Policing is not Just the job of the police, it’s all our job. I support the police. They don’t pay enough for me to do that job and they certainly don’t pay enough for me to accept the ‘arm chair quarterbacks’ that are long on opinion and short on facts.

  • Jumbleaya October 10, 2018 (8:34 am)

    I never do anything weird, so I have no problem. If it catches one criminal, totally worth it IMO.

  • ScubaFrog October 11, 2018 (4:03 pm)

    I guess mass surveillance was always just a matter of time. Like the Patriot Act, I’ll dissent in my opinion of it. Americans are so comfortable giving their freedom away.
    “durrrrrrr the trustworthy govt promises me I’ll be safer? sounds great! this can’t backfire at all, durrrrrrrrrr!”

    • An October 26, 2018 (3:26 am)

      Yes, “Americans are so comfortable giving their freedom away.” Not good though. The Constitution is there for us.

Sorry, comment time is over.