The signage alludes to the fact that beachgoers are under police surveillance
After months of controversy, a system of ten police surveillance cameras focused on the shores of Ocean Beach were turned on for the first time on Thursday (July 21).
News of the cameras first broke last September, when city councilmember Lorie Zapf made $25,000 available to fund the installation and maintenance of the system. While nearly universally backed by merchants and endorsed by the local town council, residents have mixed opinions on the cameras.
Lorie Zapf: "if you come to Ocean Beach and commit a crime on our public beaches, you will be on camera, and you will get caught."
Some locals banded together to form Citizens Against Privacy Abuse, a group arguing against the cameras. Members say they gathered about 200 signatures, launched a letter-writing campaign, and held protests and public meetings in opposition to the plan but say they were snubbed by Zapf's office in their attempts to gain an audience.
A number of supporters, including merchant representatives, a pair of students, and police, flanked Zapf during her remarks celebrating the cameras' activation. Some of the cameras have been up for months but couldn't be turned on until signage was posted informing beachgoers that they were being recorded.
"The Ocean Beach Town Council supported this request [for the cameras] to help make their community safer and deter crime," Zapf told assembled media while a handful of opponents to the surveillance quietly gathered off-camera. "I want to publicly put would-be criminals on notice — if you come to Ocean Beach and commit a crime on our public beaches, you will be on camera, and you will get caught."
A video monitor set up outside the O.B. lifeguard station at the foot of Santa Monica Avenue gave locals a peek at the vantage points of the cameras, though after Thursday's press event only law enforcement officials will have access to the video.
Police lieutenant William Carter
Police lieutenant William Carter said the cameras are fixed in position and police do not have capabilities to pan or zoom, with adjustments in focus accessible only to the private contractor who installed the system.
Authorities say the system won't typically be monitored and that recordings from the cameras will last from a few days to two weeks; older recordings will be erased to free up memory unless they're needed to investigate a crime.
Carter did hold open the possibility that on busy beach holidays someone may be assigned to monitor the feed to better direct police on the ground to trouble spots.