The surveillance cameras in Cal Anderson Park are part of a pilot program designed to test their viability as a crime fighting tool. However, police have only requested to look at the footage a few times since the City Council approved the program in June 2008, and the footage has not been used in a single conviction. The program sunsetted in January and the cameras are supposed to be turned off, but they still may be running.
Phil Mocek, who attended the meeting and has been active in opposing the Cal Anderson cameras, told the City Council Parks and Seattle Center Committee at its May 3 meeting that he requested footage taken by the cameras for this year and received it, proving, he said, that they are still turned on and recording after the scheduled sunset date.
Jim Pugel, Assistant Chief of the Seattle Police Department, argued in favor of keeping the cameras turned on -- though he thought they had been turned off in January. Pugel said that, because the cameras are already in place, the cost of running them would be negligible and that they can still be useful to law enforecement. No one at the hearing suggested expanding the camera surveillance program.
Brian Alseth, Director of the Technology and Liberty Program for the ACLU of Washington, argued that, because there was no evidence they were effective, the cameras should stay off. He said that as this pilot program has ended, the decision should be made to either go forward with the whole program or pull the plug entirely. Alseth said he is concerned that people tend to take a defeatist attitude toward the prevalence of surveillance and just say, "How do you fight it?" He said having a few cameras in Cal Anderson might just push some crime to other areas, and that it would be a bad idea for Seattle to install a city-wide surveillance system, like in London.
The committee did not make any decisions about the cameras at the meeting.