The Castro Is Considering Putting Surveillance Cameras All Over Neighborhood
Back last September, Hoodline broke the story that the Castro Community Benefit District (CBD) was considering installing a private network of security cameras around the neighborhood, with the surveillance devices funded by a $695,000 grant from tech entrepreneur Chris Larsen, co-founder of the crypto company Ripple. What could go wrong? A number of community groups were understandably outraged by the idea, and the Castro LGBTQ Cultural Historic District and Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club got the CBD to hit the pause button on all these new security cameras.
“The whole concept of a sophisticated surveillance network throughout the Castro is contrary to the values that have made the neighborhood a beacon for creative self-expression,” Milk Club board member Lee Hepner told Hoodline in October.
But the surveillance cameras may still go up, and if you don’t want to see them, Tuesday night is your time to speak up. The Castro CBD is having a Castro Public Safety Camera Program Town Hall Tuesday, April 27, from 6-7:30 p.m. The meeting will be held on Zoom, and pre-registration is required.
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There are already at least 1,000 of these cameras on this private network all over SF. A New York Times report in July detailed how these same surveillance cameras were all over the city, in Fisherman’s Wharf, Japantown, the Tenderloin, Russian Hill, and Union Square. And these things are vastly more powerful than a typical Ring or Nest doorbell, and could detect “the sticker on a cellphone, the make of a backpack, the color of someone’s eyes.”
But the Examiner broke a bombshell story in August that these cameras were used for surveillance of Black Lives Matter protests, as the SFPD was allowed to access the live feeds and can do so anytime. These cameras give police an incredibly high-powered surveillance tool, with absolutely no guidelines on what they are and aren’t allowed to do with it. The SFPD already has 1,000 super high-tech cameras with no ethical restraints on their use, and now the Castro might hand them a few hundred more super high-tech surveillance cameras.