May 2014

Crime Prevention Cameras Back On

Keith Burbank

About six weeks after Koozoo turned off its crime prevention cameras on Kansas Street, between 22nd and 26th streets, in the face of community privacy concerns, the company turned them back on. When the cameras were first activated last year, nearby residents raised privacy worries about the system, in which cameras are pointed at the street from residents’ homes. In response Koozoo asked for input from relevant City offices, with only District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen’s office responding. 

“We came to the conclusion that this was a non-issue,” said Ray O’Connor, captain, Kansas Street SAFE Neighborhood Association, which is allowing Koozoo to test the new system. The association had been afraid that they might be subject to legal action over privacy issues, but O’Connor and Koozoo have concluded that such a lawsuit wouldn’t be successful. It’s O’Connor’s understanding that there’s no presumption of privacy in public places; the cameras aren’t pointed at homes.

Under the reactivated system, recorded footage is available online from participating residents’ home computers. A rolling seven days of footage is available, clips of which can be sent to the San Francisco Police Department. According to O’Connor, no one is sitting behind a desk monitoring the cameras. “It’s not a surveillance system,” he said, but a crime prevention video system. 

 There’s been one criminal incident — the theft of four wheels from a pickup — in the area since the cameras have been back on, but the cameras didn’t capture it because they aren’t yet working well. “We’re really in a developing process,” O’Connor said. “We are their prototype.” Koozoo chief executive officer Drew Sechrist confirmed that his company is looking for new cameras that have better image quality and are easier to set up. 

Koozoo, which is headquartered South of Market, will ultimately offer cameras for sale and charge for access to recorded footage. Pricing for a home system hasn’t been determined yet. Apart from the Kansas Street effort, Koozoo’s app enables people to share live video two ways: snippets from any location, or live 24/7 footage from a home or office. A snippet may show how long the line is at a favorite restaurant, or if there are any tennis courts available at the park. Customers sharing live 24/7 footage have access to additional features currently under development.

Supervisor Cohen deferred to San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón’s office about the privacy question. But Yoyo Chan, a legislative aide with the supervisor’s office, said, “We don’t see a legal issue.” The DA’s office wasn’t available for comment. 

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