Crime cameras remain a dicey issue in S.F. 

While The City has set aside money in this year’s budget to add more surveillance cameras in high crime areas, the balancing question between the cameras’ effectiveness and the concerns of people’s civil liberties remains.

The question of whether the 64 existing surveillance cameras monitoring 22 intersections are effective in deterring crime or catching suspectswill be left unanswered until at least the fall.

Installation of the cameras began last year as a pilot program to help deter crime. Communities plagued by violence have generally supported the devices, while critics say they have no effect other than to infringe on civil liberties.

The Police Department and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice will present a study to the Police Commission no earlier than September showing how effective the cameras have been, said Lenore Anderson, deputy director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

For any additional cameras to be installed, the Police Department would have to request the release of funds from the board, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice would have to recommend locations, and the Police Commission would hold public hearings and then vote on their placement. That will not happen until the study on the effectiveness of the existing cameras is issued, according to Anderson.

On Tuesday, when the Board of Supervisors approved Mayor Gavin Newsom’s budget for the fiscal year, Supervisor Jake McGoldrick called for a separate vote on the $200,000 line item for the purchase of 25 additional crime cameras.

"When we were told that we were going to get some pilot project cameras, that was one thing," McGoldrick said. "But bit by bit by bit, the erosion, I think, of civil liberties issues here, by these cameras being put all over the place, is something that I think we are going to live to regret."

The board approved the funding in a 7-4 vote.

"There is a lot of community support for any and all strategies to help reduce crime and violence and we are hopeful these are being positive," Anderson said. She said she would not offer an opinion about the cameras’ effectiveness until the study is complete.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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