A new pilot program that allows private security cameras in public areas is sparking debate among residents in Newport Beach.
City council members unanimously approved the program that would allow privately owned and operated cameras to record public areas such as sidewalks and streets.
Residents in Newport Beach’s Spyglass community say the security cameras will allow them to better surveil their neighborhood and deter potential thieves from targeting homes.
The program would also include signs that warned drivers they’re being recorded when they enter the neighborhood.
Although residents appear to be generally supportive of the program, a few are concerned about privacy violations.
“This is just a wonderful community but I was burglarized soon after we moved in,” said one resident in a recent city council meeting. “I felt so violated as others have. There are three in our street who were burglarized.”
“Homeowners have asked us what else we can do,” said Bruce Horn, the neighborhood’s HOA president. “So the idea of putting in solar-based, licensed capturing cameras made a lot of sense.”
As HOA members explored locations to install cameras, they soon discovered the move wasn’t allowed as the areas in question were located on city-owned right-of-ways.
Now, a recent city council meeting has made an exception for the neighborhood, allowing the cameras’ installation.
“So they may be on medians or other public land that typically under the city policies, these would be off limits to any private use,” explained John Pope, a Newport Beach city spokesperson. “So the city council did make an exception.”
Some examples of the cameras’ locations include public spots near street signs or light poles.
As part of the pilot program’s policy adopted by the city, some measures will be in place to protect any privacy concerns.
“It’s very specific about the cameras,” Pope said. “They can’t record audio, they can’t use facial recognition, they can’t point into any private areas. They have to be fixed and they have to be pointed only at public rights of way.”
“If it makes a couple feel uncomfortable, I don’t understand that,” Horn said. “It’s just trapping license plates. That’s it. It’s not trapping people or faces. So they have nothing to worry about. The benefit is if we can drop burglaries, then it’s a huge win for us as a community.”
The pilot program was approved to be in place through September 2024. After that time, the program’s effectiveness will be evaluated to determine whether it will be renewed.