Seattle police: new camera system to stretch from Ballard to West Seattle

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by ELISA HAHN / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on February 1, 2013 at 5:53 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 1 at 7:52 PM

You can already see the cameras at the Fauntleroy ferry dock. Soon they'll be up in Golden Gardens north of Ballard. Seattle police say they are part of a mesh network of 30 cameras installed all along the Seattle waterfront.

"The cameras are designed to monitor the maritime arena,” said Assistant Chief Paul McDonagh. “If there is something unusual going on or if something happens we'll be able to provide real time information to those responding.”

Some of the installations are so close to homes, SPD promises there will be a masking feature to protect privacy.

"We actually put a physical device inside the camera so if the camera were to turn toward the residential area, it just sees a dark shape,” said McDonagh.

The video shot by these cameras will not be monitored around the clock, but it will be recorded for up to 30 days. While the goal is to use them for maritime security, detectives admit if the cameras capture evidence of a crime, they will use it.

The department is aware of concerns over the balance between privacy and security. According to McDonagh, they will err on the side of privacy.

The cities of Tukwila and Federal Way have similar surveillance systems in place and have used them successfully to prosecute crimes.

Along with those cameras come a network of 4G antennas throughout the city,that will improve communications for multiple agencies.

"The fire department, once the system is up and running, could theoretically, take the information from a patient and in real time while they're transporting, never lose connectivity with Harborview Medical Center,” said McDonagh.

Other agencies that have access to the system include SDOT, the U.S. Coast Guard, and Seattle Fire.

McDonagh says the $5 million grant is for maritime surveillance, but he did not rule out more cameras in other areas if the funding becomes available.

He says there are no public hearings planned for now.  The system should be installed and ready for use by March 31st, but an inter-agency policy needs to be ironed out before it is activated.

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