SF Budget Committee Cuts Funding for Surveillance
In a victory for civil liberties and responsible government spending, the Budget Committee of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted Thursday to cut $300,000 from its invasive, intrusive, and ineffective video surveillance camera program.
The Budget Committee's decision is an important first step, but will not be finalized until the full Board approves the budget next month. Please contact your Supervisor and urge them not to waste $300,000 on an ineffective and invasive program, while cutting funds from health and human services and other important intervention programs.
San Francisco faces an enormous deficit, forcing the Board of Supervisors to consider cuts to a variety of worthy programs and services. Yet despite the need to tighten spending, Mayor Gavin Newsom's proposed budget called for $300,000 to deploy new video surveillance cameras and maintain the 68 cameras already monitoring San Francisco street corners.
The video surveillance program, which started with 2 cameras in June 2005, was steadily expanded despite evidence from both around the world and on the San Francisco streets that the cameras do not prevent or reduce crime. In fact, a review of San Francisco crime statistics found that crime actually went up in more than half of the camera locations.
Preliminary findings of a study of the San Francisco video surveillance program commissioned by the city at the behest of the SF Police Commission and conducted by UC Berkeley researchers found that there was no drop in violent crime, auto theft, or burglary in the vicinity of the cameras.
These results are consistent with past studies of the effectiveness of video surveillance. Just a few weeks ago, a California Research Bureau study found that the similar Los Angeles surveillance camera program did not reduce crime or increase arrest rates. Study after study has found that video surveillance cameras deployed on city streets have no impact on violent crime.
Citing this strong evidence of ineffectiveness, Supervisors Jake McGoldrick, Chris Daly, and Ross Mirkarimi voted against spending any more money on the surveillance cameras. They plan to use the $300,000 to restore funding to more worthy programs facing budget cuts.
The ACLU is working to ensure that the full Board of Supervisors approves the Budget Committee's recommendation when they finalize the budget next month. However, the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice will be pushing hard to convince the Board to restore funding to the surveillance cameras. You can help by contacting your Supervisors and telling them not to waste $300,000 on an ineffective and invasive program. Remind them of the many programs slated for budget cuts that actually help San Franciscans.
For more information about the intrusiveness and ineffectiveness of video surveillance system, read the ACLU of Northern California's report on their proliferation throughout California.