Western Addition to add more crime cameras 

The ranks of cameras that have been steadily multiplying on San Francisco street corners will swell by three following a unanimous vote by The City’s civilian police oversight body Wednesday.

The San Francisco Police Commission on Wednesday approved the installation of the controversial crime surveillance cameras at the corner of Haight and Webster streets.

The cameras, touted by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice as part of a solution to The City’s increased violent crime rate, have drawn criticism from privacy and civil rights advocates, who say they violate people’s privacy, as well as their First Amendment right to assembly.

The cameras cost about $12,000 each, according to the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. The City budgeted $275,000 for their installation in fiscal year 2006-07.

The cameras were first installed in the Western Addition in August 2005.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, whose district is slated to get the cameras, introduced the legislation that secured supplemental funding for the new cameras after a January community meeting. At the meeting, neighbors called for solutions to the violence plaguing the neighborhood. A rash of shootings, including a double homicide on Haight Street near Webster Street, marred the early weeks of 2007.

At a Jan. 17 hearing where 22 cameras were approved at eight intersections citywide, the commission indicated that it would not approve any more cameras until a six-month efficacy study was completed on the existing ones. Those 22 cameras were installed in addition to 33 existing cameras that went in before legislation by Mirkarimi mandated public hearings before any new camera installation.

At Wednesday’s meeting, however, Mirkarimi said he had initially included a camera at Haight and Webster streets in the first batch of 33 cameras. Several commissioners indicated they would not approve the cameras’ installation otherwise.

"While I feel that the jury’s still out about the efficacy of these cameras, nonetheless I’m OK with advocating for their installation because at least at this point they seem to provide some psychological benefit," Mirkarimi said Wednesday.

Six locals who gave public comment at the meeting directly opposed the cameras or registered concerns about them.

"I find their very presence oppressive," said a resident of Haight and Webster, who only gave his name as Martin. He said the stress caused by the cameras "negatively impacts my quality of life."

amartin@examiner.com

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