Central California City Uses Grant to Deploy Public Safety Video Surveillance System

The Pasos Robles Police Department launched the first phase of the program by deploying portable devices that hold multiple security cameras.

PASO ROBLES, Calif. – Police here in this Central California community with about 32,000 residents recently implemented Phase 1 of a public safety video surveillance system.

The solution, made possible by using a $62,500 grant from the Board of State Community Corrections, is intended to be used for preventing, deterring and identifying criminal activity, among others uses.

“Prevention is a big one for us,” Lt. Tim Murphy with the Paso Robles Police Department, told the Paso Robles Press. “One of the benefits of this system is that [security camera feeds] are visible at nighttime. If someone knows they are being recorded, it creates a visible deterrent. And if a crime is committed, if an event is captured, there are investigative leads you wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

Security Lines US installed customized portable surveillance systems, referred to as Police Observation Devices or PODs. There are between one and four cameras in each POD. About a dozen of the devices have been deployed in various areas within the city, including multiple parks. Some of the cameras are fixed while others have pan/tilt/zoom (p/t/z) functionality.

The company’s website says the PODs do not require network or coax cabling, so there is no ground drilling or need for long conduit runs. Once mounted, the devices only need to be connected to power. The devices can be readily unmounted and reinstalled in other locations.

According to the city’s approved Policy 345, “The department may elect to integrate its public safety video surveillance system with other technology to enhance available information. Systems such as gunshot detection, incident mapping, crime analysis, facial recognition and other video-based analytical systems may be considered.”

In regard to privacy concerns, Policy 345 also states, “Public safety video surveillance systems will not intentionally be used to invade the privacy of individuals or observe areas where a reasonable expectation of privacy exists.” The policy further states that the system, “shall not be used in an unequal or discriminatory manner and not target protected individual characteristics including but not limited to race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, disability, gender or sexual orientation…equipment shall not be used to harass, intimidate, or discriminate against any individual or group.”

The Paso Robles Press article described particular locations where the PODs have been deployed and reaction from community members:

After much searching at the Downtown City Park, the single POD was discovered hovering high above 11th Street, keeping a watchful eye over the playground and the public library. The device was pointed out to Jason Woodward, of San Miguel, as he was watching over his children on the apparatus. At first he was surprised as he hadn’t noticed it despite the flashing blue lights. When asked how he felt about it, Woodward approved with a nod, “We already have one in San Miguel. I think it’s safer. Some people feel their constitutional rights are being impeded upon but I think it’s safer for everybody all the way around. Because there are some predators around that are in some spots where they’re not supposed to be. Especially on the playground.”

At Centennial Park, one of the three PODs can be seen hovering over a small pavilion of empty picnic tables. As for the other two, “Perhaps there are some down there,” said John Siemens, a 20-year veteran as the Centennial Park Tennis Courts instructor, as he points toward the heavily wooded ravine that cuts through the park, “that’s where all the shenanigans happen.”

“In the grand scheme, other cities have been using these systems for years – Los Angeles, New York,” Murphy said. “Locally, Arroyo Grande led the charge. We have been aware of their success because our departments are very tight.”

As for the effectiveness here in Paso Robles, “The project is so new, we have no success stories yet,” Murphy said. “We have no idea how much crime it’s preventing either.”

When asked if there were any plans to expand the project, Murphy responded, “That will be dependent on the grant – it is potentially annual, but we need to gauge the cost-effectiveness, give this time to make sure it works for the community and the officers. I envision this growing. We just need to see how this phase develops.”

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