Story Summary

Seattle’s waterfront surveillance cameras

The city of Seattle has installed police surveillance cameras along the West Seattle waterfront, and intends to put a total of 30 cameras along the rest of Seattle’s waterfront from Fauntleroy to Golden Gardens.  The cameras have generated privacy concerns by residents. Mayor Mike McGinn said they won’t be turned on until the public has a chance to weigh in. The cameras were acquired through a $5 million federal Homeland Security grant. Police hope to turn the cameras on by the end of March.

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SEATTLE — Boston has more than a hundred surveillance cameras, something investigators now hope will help solve bombings at the Boston Marathon.

With so much talk of surveillance cameras and how they are helping in the investigation, it’s reigniting the debate in Seattle of the 30 surveillance cameras installed along the waterfront but not yet turned on.

“I live here in Alki. If something was to happen, you want as much information as possible,” said West Seattle resident Megan Gilshire.

Cameras could go live on Alki beach, the waterfront and Elliott Bay but not before the public gets to weigh in.

“I don’t like the feeling of walking down the street and constantly being watched,” said Seattle resident Linda Newton.

But when does safety trump privacy?

“If there is a shooting in the city, the first thing we do is canvass private businesses for their footage; that is the first thing we do,” said Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn.

McGinn isn’t taking a side yet but says it’s important the discussion continue.

“You cannot interfere with a business or a homeowner that have a (surveillance) camera, but we don’t have to use taxpayer dollars” for public surveillance cameras, said Newton.

Newton said she will never change her mind on the topic. She was a part of a group called No Drones Northwest that argued against the use of aerial police drones in Seattle. They marched through downtown Seattle Wednesday night, hoping to raise money for the cause and sway opinion.

Most of the protesters were vigilant against all cameras and all drones being used by any law enforcement.

“That takes a lot of trust in our police and I don’t have that trust,” said Dorlie Rainey.

Many protesters said Boston’s tragedy shouldn’t be used as a platform for more surveillance cameras. For others, it’s not so black and white; some say the extra eyes could help police solve crimes.

“I would want there to be a citizen overview panel to look at that and see how the footage would be used,” said Seattle resident Hap Bockelie.

If the waterfront cameras get the green light, the Seattle City Council will regulate, restrict and monitor the use. Public hearings will continue but no word yet on when a final decision will be made.

SEATTLE — The Seattle City Council approved rules Monday for the use of surveillance cameras along the waterfront. The vote paved the way for cameras along Alki Beach and Elliott Bay to be turned on.

Under the measure approved by the City Council, city departments would have to describe how they would use the cameras (or drones) and the council then would have to hold a public hearing on the proposal before giving its approval. The measure, however, included language that exempts the Seattle Police Department if the device is part of a criminal investigation or approved under a search warrant.

The surveillance cameras have generated a public backlash ever since they were installed along part of Seattle`s waterfront a couple of months ago.  Will they be able to look into homes? Who will they be tracking and who will have access to the tapes?

camerasMcGinn, who originally signed off on the cameras to help with Port of Seattle security, backed off after the mini-revolt by West Seattle residents and said the waterfront cameras would not be turned on until after the public had a chance to voice concerns.

On Monday, members of the City Council unanimously adopted what they argue are clear and strict guidelines about how cameras, drones or any other type or surveillance equipment will be used.

“Before this city buys any surveillance equipment or drones, they (city departments) cannot do so without the approval of the council and they cannot put them into operation until we sign off on the protocols,” Councilman Nick Licata said.

Lawmakers argued that requiring clear protocols of any city department that wants to use surveillance equipment will prevent any privacy problems in the future.

“We do not want these cameras to go into the homes of any residences or any of the businesses – their windows, for example,” Councilman Bruce Harrell said. “So we will make sure that we have the right protections in place to prevent that.”

But a few members of the public in the audience chanted, “Vote you out! Vote you out!” as they walked out of the City Council chambers.

One woman outside the chambers said, “Frankly, there has been so much (public) outcry over this that, I mean, the public doesn’t want this. So why are we still going down this path?”

Andrew Shaw of the ACLU-Washington said, “We are under constant surveillance, and that is frightening.”

The ACLU questions whether surveillance cameras even serve their stated purpose.

“There`s no evidence that I`ve seen from any reports or research that`s been done that show that cameras prevent crimes,” Shaw said.

The ACLU opposed Monday’s vote, arguing the new rules don’t include an annual review to determine whether the rules are being followed.

City officials haven’t said when the cameras along the waterfront might be turned on.

Local News

Police: West Seattle surveillance cameras could help solve crimes


Fliers were posted seeking the public’s help in solving the murder of Greggette Guy on Alki Beach last year.

SEATTLE — Nearly a year ago, Greggette Guy went for a walk along the water on Alki Beach. She never returned home.

Her body was found floating the next day. She had been murdered.

No one has been arrested, but police detectives say if there had been surveillance cameras along the water, they may have caught her killer by now.

“It could have captured an image of a boat if it were on the water, or a vehicle driving along the roadway,” said Seattle police detective Monty Moss. “That could have led to an investigative tip or lead.”

Moss is in charge of the city’s new surveillance camera system along the waterfront and port to combat crime and terrorism. He spoke to a small group of residents at a church in Alki Thursday night.

More than 30 cameras are proposed along the water. There are those living around Alki who support them. But plenty of people remain concerned about privacy and worry about what the cameras could see.

Police say they will use a masking system to make sure the cameras don’t see into homes or apartments. Moss said cameras are an invaluable tool in solving crimes and catching killers. Last year, surveillance inside the Roosevelt area’s Café Racer helped police find the shooter who killed four people there.

Moss said that before detectives saw the surveillance photos from that mass shooting, “we were chasing ghosts, so to speak.”

“When you have an image of a suspect, then it allows us to focus on that person instead of looking for people who look a little like him or her.”

They were eventually able to track down the shooter, Ian Stawicki, who committed suicide as police approached him in West Seattle.

While police see the benefit in the public cameras, city leaders won’t allow them to be turned on until several more public hearings to hear all of the concerns raised by having cameras overhead.

Local News

West Seattle residents voice concerns about surveillance cameras

camerasSEATTLE — Some West Seattle residents expressed anger Wednesday about the police department’s waterfront surveillance cameras.

Mayor Mike McGinn said the cameras will not be turned on until the public has a chance to voice its concerns. And some did just that at a hearing Wednesday.

More public sessions are to be held on the issue.

Watch the video about Wednesday’s hearing below:

mcginnSEATTLE — Mayor Mike McGinn said Wednesday that the controversial surveillance video cameras recently installed on West Seattle’s waterfront are not operating and will not be turned on until the public “has a thorough chance to weigh in” on their privacy concerns.

A final decision about the cameras will only be made then, he said.

In a wide-ranging interview, McGinn talked about his decision to cancel the police aerial surveillance drone program, the cameras on the West Seattle waterfront and also his most recent talk with investor Chris Hansen on his attempt to buy the Sacramento Kings and move the team to Seattle.

On the waterfront surveillance cameras, which has raised privacy concerns among some West Seattle residents, McGinn said, “We’re not turning those cameras on … we’re not operating anything until the public has a thorough chance to weigh in and we can make a decision.”

He said the city is soliciting input from the public and “if we can’t address those concerns, then we’ll have to make a decision about what to do next.”

On the possibility of Hansen moving a new Sonics team to Seattle, McGinn said he talked to Hansen in the past couple of days “just to touch base.” He said they were “both affirming our commitment to get KeyArena ready for that deal,” should the NBA Board of Governors in April approve of Hansen’s deal to buy the Kings and move them to Seattle next season.  The new Sonics would play the first couple of seasons in KeyArena until a new sports arena is constructed.

camsBy Kate Burgess

Q13 FOX News reporter

SEATTLE — Strolling or biking along the waterfront? Smile, chances are you could soon be on camera.

About a half-dozen surveillance cameras have been installed in West Seattle as a way for police and first responders to monitor public safety and deal with potential threats. But it’s the idea of constantly being watched that has gotten some people’s attention.

“I really don’t like it,” West Seattle resident Tami DuBois said. “Here I’m walking around and I’m on film? It’s like being watched and you don’t even know it.”

Surveillance cameras are being placed all along the water, from Alki to Golden Gardens, as part of a citywide wireless network aimed at improving emergency communication and port security.

“I don’t mind them as long as they’re being used for what they say they’re being used for,” said West Seattle resident Isabella Kestner.

Assistant Seattle Police Chief Paul McDonagh said, “The cameras are out to monitor the maritime arena. So if there’s something unusual going on, we’ll be able to see it or if something happens, we’ll be able to provide real-time information to those responding and also people in the EOC (emergency operations center) and the operations centers.”

The Seattle City Council approved the system last May, using money from a $5 million federal Homeland Security grant. McDonagh said they’re working to address privacy concerns, while protecting the coastline.

“Privacy and security oftentimes come in conflict, and we’re trying to make sure that we balance those,” McDonagh said. “We have an obligation to protect the public at large. So we’re going to continue to do that. However, we’re going to constantly weigh the privacy issues on that.”

When told about the assistant police chief’s comments, Kestner said, “That’s a good thing and I like to believe that, but the feeling of constantly being watched freaks me out.”

They’re placing masking devices on cameras that could potentially see into homes, blocking out that view from the recorded feed. But streets, parks and beaches in range are fair game.

DuBois said, “It’s kind of like taking a piece of your freedom away.”

This is just the start. A total of 30 cameras should be installed by March 31. But the system won’t be active until the groups involved can hammer out some final details, and officials don’t have a date for that yet.

McDonagh said, “If there’s public demand, they will hold an information session or forum for people to ask question, but there’s nothing set in stone.”