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San Diego police chief wants more access to streetlight cameras to fight crime

Chief David Nisleit has renewed calls for police access to the cameras, which he says are a valuable investigation tool


The City of San Diego has installed thousands of “smart” streetlamps that include an array of sensors including video and audio.

John Gibbins

By Suzie Ziegler

SAN DIEGO — San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit is asking the city to restore police access to streetlight cameras – a tool he says is valuable for fighting crime.

According to NBC San Diego, Nisleit held a press conference Wednesday asking for access to the smart cameras. Nisleit said the surveillance system helped detectives find a suspect in a recent homicide case. However, Nisleit says that his department has since lost the ability to use some of those cameras.

“Unfortunately, we lost some of those cameras and it’s been difficult for us to solve violent cases,” Nisleit said. “That’s what I really want to stress, tech can be leveraged to solve violent crime. In this case an unprovoked senseless homicide, but it allows law enforcement to be more precise and know who they’re looking for versus having to cast a wider net. "

Khalid Alexander, a member of Transparent and Responsible Use of Surveillance Technology, says the concern is about oversight.

“Our request isn’t they don’t have access to it, our request is if there is actually oversight,” Alexander told NBC San Diego. “These are laws and tactics they’re using without technology so bringing technology like this will only heighten problematic ways that police department interacts with the community.”

But Nisleit claims there are already policies in place to prevent misuse.

“Our policy in the City of San Diego is one of the most robust in the country. The previous policy of five days retention period, how they’re used, the fact that we keep an audit trail that we put on a webpage and the types of crimes with dispositions of crimes,” Nisleit said.

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