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Community Groups Call For Moratorium On San Diego’s ‘Smart Streetlights’

A camera is seen on a streetlight in the city of San Diego, Sept. 17, 2019.

Photo by Matt Hoffman

Above: A camera is seen on a streetlight in the city of San Diego, Sept. 17, 2019.

More than a dozen community groups are calling on city leaders to turn off thousands of cameras positioned on streetlights around San Diego.

The city of San Diego said the use of the so-called “smart streetlights” started three years ago as a cost-saving effort to replace older street lights. The cameras collect data on everything from parking, people and bikes to temperature and humidity.

Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.

"We have to understand that these smart street lights must go," said Genevieve Jones-Wright with the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans.

RELATED: SDPD Using Video From Smart Streetlights To Help Solve Crimes

Jones-Wright and other community groups are asking the city to stop using the cameras until the public is involved in oversight and use of the technology.

"We have uncovered what the city has been trying to hide under language like metadata and sensor nodes that hide the fact that they’ve set up surveillance spying cameras without public input," Jones-Wright said.

City officials said a lot of misinformation is being spread and assert that no spying is happening. The cameras do not view private properties, collect audio, have facial recognition or license plate reading capabilities, officials said. The police department does have access to the video and it has been used in more than 160 investigations.

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More than a dozen community groups are asking the city of San Diego to stop using “smart” streetlights over privacy concerns. The city says, cameras on the lights are only recording images in the public right of way. Plus, a rash of deaths from vaping, including a California man this week, has increased demands from a local nonprofit for its ... Read more →

Aired: September 18, 2019 | Transcript

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Photo of Matt Hoffman

Matt Hoffman
General Assignment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a general assignment reporter for KPBS. In addition to covering the latest news and issues that are relevant to the San Diego community, I like to dig deeper to find the voices and perspectives that other media often miss.

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