H.B. eyes use of surveillance cameras downtown

Huntington Beach will look into the possibility of placing video surveillance cameras downtown.

Council members voted Monday night to ask police and Information Services Departments to look into the possibility of using cameras in an effort to reduce crime in the area.

The item, submitted by Councilmen Joe Carchio and Joe Shaw, passed in a 6-1 vote, with Mayor Pro Tem Matt Harper dissenting.

Harper said video cameras are appropriate for privately owned properties, like Bella Terra or shopping malls, but doesn't approved of adding them to a public area like downtown, he said.

"If a mall wants to put up cameras in a privately owned area, that's their business, in my opinion," Harper said. "But when the government is coming in and placing cameras all about a public area, that's a Big Brother world that I'm not interesting in being a part of. Big Brother is not benevolent."

Carchio said about 300 bicycles were stolen from under the pier last year, some of which cameras could have prevented.

"There's 300 people that aren't coming back to downtown Huntington Beach right there," Police Chief Ken Small said.

Carchio said adding cameras will aid the Police Department, which has seen staffing levels drop for the past five years, according to an article in the Independent.

"The cameras are just going to be another tool for our police officers and give them that assistance if they need it," Carchio said.

Councilman Jim Katapodis, a Los Angeles police sergeant and strong proponent for placing cameras downtown, said he sees the advantages.

"We use cameras in the Los Angeles Police Department and they're extremely effective," he said. "The only people that worry about the cameras are criminals, not regular people."

Mayor Connie Boardman had concerns about having cameras placed in random locations, but said she would be fine with the idea if they were strategically placed.

"They have to be strategic locations and I have faith in the chief of police that he would know the areas where high crimes are by statistics," Katapodis said.

Harper asked if police would consider removing them if the police staff was at capacity.

Katapodis said that he wouldn't object to the idea of removing the cameras if that were true, but Small said he would like to keep cameras at known trouble areas around downtown even with a full staff.


Twitter: @acocarpio

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