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City Attorney Defends Smart Streetlight Camera Program's Success

The San Diego City Attorney's press conference on Tuesday afternoon became heated when a group who opposes the program spoke out against the attorney

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San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott touted the city's Smart Streetlight program as a critical tool for crime solving Tuesday.

She said since the program began in 2018, it has helped solved nearly 250 crimes including but not limited to murders, sexual assaults, arson, kidnappings, carjackings and hate crimes.

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She held her press conference on Tuesday in a poignant location, in front of the East Village Alpha Project. That's where Alpha Project's security guard Ernest Buchanan was shot and killed right in front of the facility, on Dec. 28, 2019, exactly one month before her press conference.

"The only witness to this vicious and senseless crime was the camera mounted atop this Smart Streetlight," said Elliott, as she pointed at the street light on the corner of Imperial and 17th Street. That was one example of the dozens of cases where Smart Streetlight cameras have helped police solve cases.

She also informed the media that a small group in the city is spreading lies about the Smart Streetlight Program to try to shut them down.

"I may be the only elected official in San Diego who isn't afraid of their scare tactics, but I'm not going to turn my back on a powerful crime-solving tool that removes murderers and rapists from our streets," she said.

That group, SD Trust Coalition, also attended her press conference.

Afterwards, one of the coalition's leaders, Genevieve Jones-Wright, publicly traded heated words with Elliott, at one point claiming Elliott sent her a cease and desist letter on Friday.

"I stand here looking you (Elliott) in the face saying we will not be bullied, we will not be intimidated, and you should not have used your position as an elected official to come against community members who are simply concerned," Jones-Wright said. "This is vindictive, this is retaliatory, and you should be ashamed of yourself Mara Elliott."

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"This is an attack on me personally, and I really resent it," Elliott responded. "You would expect the first question somebody would ask is, is there a conflict of interest? You have to know how many shares I own with General Electric (the company that runs the Smart Streetlight program.) I own $18,000 to my kid's college account. In order to have a conflict of interest, you have to own at least 3% of the company."

Elliott also said to the media that Jones-Wright works for Elliott's political opponent Cory Briggs.

Jones-Wright said her goal is to put a moratorium on the Smart Streetlights program. Then she wants to have more public input and more transparency by proposing a city ordinance that would better protect the public's rights on the public streets.

She also said she has certain San Diego City Council members' support.

Elliott said she wants the public to know the Smart Streetlight program does not have facial recognition, the cameras cannot read license plates, the footage is only recorded and saved for five days at a time unless it is part of a police investigation, and the data is only allowed to be exclusively accessed by the city.

On Wednesday, the San Diego City Public Safety & Livable Neighborhoods Committee will hear an informational update on the City's Smart Streetlight program.

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