Surveillance cameras

 

During last council meeting the question regarding Town owned surveillance cameras came up.  One resident made an appearance and told the town that their house was burglarized the other day. He asked the Town council to consider surveillance cameras as you enter the Town. I hope that the Clyde Hill Police department can find the perpetrator who committed this serious crime.

Would surveillance cameras be worth implementing in Yarrow Point?  Here are some of my thoughts on the topic.

 

Functionality

The camera system must be visible to deter criminals from entering the town. Unfortunately, this means that the esthetics of the town must be sacrificed. We have all seen the surveillance cameras as you enter Hunts Point and Medina. They are not hidden by any means. The treelike structure with cameras in all directions located in the roundabout looks almost comical [1]

Video recording and archiving must be available for law enforcement purposes. Night recording capabilities are needed so that the system can operate on a 24×7 basis.

Automated license plate reading could be available. This would help law enforcement to faster find stolen vehicles. However, during last council meeting the Clyde Hill police noted that they believed current system in Medina and Hunts Point had about 1 hour lag before the Police department got notified about stolen vehicles entering the town.

 

Placement

The placement of such cameras would be challenging. The obvious spot would be the roundabout on 92nd Ave. however that does not cover the entire Town. Some 27 properties (marked with a blue dot below) can be reached via Clyde Hill or from the 520 via the 84th street exit without passing the 92nd avenue roundabout. Hunts Point and Medina have a similar issue with areas such as Medina Circle and properties on Points Drive that are accessible via the 520 offramp without passing any camera. These residents must be compensated in some way.

It must be explored what other permits that are needed to place the cameras in the roundabout. The cameras would record any Clyde Hill resident using the 92nd offramp so this would be something that must be discussed with Clyde Hill.

 Residents not covered by a potential camera system in the roundabout

 

Cost

It is challenging to estimate the cost of a camera system like this. I have been trying to find information online from the city of Medina’s budget but it is hard to see the details. We can see that there were over $200k of funds allocated in 2012 and 2013 for “Public Safety Camera System”. This is a good indication but Medina is however a larger Town with more entry points and the cost of this type of devices has steadily gone down over the years.

My estimate would be that if Yarrow point were to implement a something in the roundabout it would probably be in the cost of at least the multiple tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands. On top of that there would be a significant annual fee to operate the system. Keep in mind that we are using Clyde Hill for our Police services and that they currently do not have any camera system like this. New procedures and equipment would be needed on their side as well.

The cost is perhaps high but not unreasonable, especially if compared to solving or deterring a few serious crimes.

Medina budget with line items for camera system

Benefit

It is hard to tell if there is any significant benefit with a camera system. Over the years, there have been some great success stories [2]. However, one interesting thing to note is that both Clyde Hill (who also does not have Cameras) and Yarrow Point have a lower crime rate compared to Media [3].

Another thing to keep in mind is the uptick of overall video capable devices. Today, most residents have some type of alarm system with camera capabilities not to mention all photo and video capable mobile devices. This was not the case when Medina and Hunts Point implemented their systems years back.

Disadvantages

Other than the cost for the city to operate cameras, it is certainly an invasion of privacy to get your vehicle and face photographed every time you enter Yarrow Point. It could be quite a significant number of non-residents who would be captured too, especially with a camera in the roundabout.

The esthetics of the cameras are of a concern. They will certainly look ugly and not blend in very well.

Another concern worth bringing up is the signal a camera system like this send to visitors and other non-residents. Although the main goal is security for our resident, it sends a signal that can be misinterpreted as unwelcome and that the Town wishes to be separated from the rest of our metropolitan area.

Conclusion

Setting up a camera system like this has both benefits and drawbacks. The town should very carefully consider the implications before making any decision.  I would like to hear more from the residents in this matter to understand if this is something that should be pursued.

One thought on “Surveillance cameras”

  1. One reader noted that another alternative is to use fake cameras and warning signs about the area being under surveillance. They would have a much lower cost compared to real cameras. However, they will still have the same deterring effect and unfortunately the same esthetic issues. If it is concluded that real cameras are too expensive, this could be a middle ground.

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