S.F. police explore more options for monitoring public in wake of Boston bombing 

click to enlarge S.F. police want to increase security in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. - MIKE KOOZMIN/2011 S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • Mike Koozmin/2011 S.F. Examiner file photo
  • S.F. police want to increase security in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing.

After security camera footage helped track down the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, Police Chief Greg Suhr said law enforcement here could live-monitor a network of private and public surveillance cameras to patrol large events.

The April 15 bombing in Boston has local law enforcement reassessing security measures for the 300 special events that occur in San Francisco annually. As this broader discussion continues, adjustments have already been made for the Craigslist Bay to Breakers footrace that is expected to attract 100,000 attendees to The City on May 19.

“These plans have been reviewed and revised to provide an even greater level of safety and security,” Deputy Police Chief John Loftus said during Thursday’s Board of Supervisors Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee hearing. Measures include bomb technicians, K-9 bomb-sniffing units, the use of 80 Police
Academy officers, security cameras and license plate recognition technology. Federal agents also will be deployed.

“FBI assets will be present and assisting with security measures,” Loftus said. He declined to provide specifics.

Suhr is examining a greater use of security cameras in the coming years for large events such as Bay to Breakers, the Pride parade and the Chinese New Year Parade.

“We have a lot of cameras right now in downtown San Francisco,” Suhr said, adding that he plans to have an engineer “map all the cameras up and down Market Street” and other areas of The City where there are large gatherings, such as Civic Center, to learn what private and public cameras already exist.

Suhr said mapping the camera locations would let police know ahead of time where they can turn to for footage, but also help figure out how to “privately or publicly cover up those blind spots so that we would have a continuing operating picture that would be in the best interest of public safety.”

He said that if technology existed “that could route all that video to one place, perhaps we would come back and ask permission of this body for an exception to The City’s policy for real-time monitoring in instances of large events, only those that are already on television.”

“But I am getting ahead of myself,” Suhr said. “I am not even sure that such a solution exists.”

In 2005, The City turned to security cameras to help reduce homicides when they were skyrocketing. There now are about 70 installed in crime-plagued areas. They are not monitored in real time.
Civil-liberties groups have expressed concerns about increased use of cameras.

While Supervisor David Campos said that “the cameras in Boston I think were very effective in preventing another bombing from happening,” he added that it was important to find the proper “balance” between public safety and civil liberties.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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