San Diego

City to Develop Ordinance to Promote Streetlight Sensor Transparency

The City of San Diego's Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee will create an ordinance that will provide a deeper look into the data collected by streetlight sensors

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The City of San Diego’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee rejected a policy on streetlight sensor data use on Wednesday. The committee will, instead, move forward with an ordinance that will be more comprehensive and establish a report on the use of the streetlight sensor data.

During Wednesday’s meeting, the San Diego Mayor’s office and San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit explained how the streetlight sensors help solve crimes.

In a press conference on Tuesday, San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott said since the program began in 2018, it has helped solve nearly 250 crimes. Elliott also added that the streetlights do not have facial recognition, cannot read license plates and the data can only be accessed by the city.

However, some local groups are demanding a more transparent process and explanations on how the data is handled.

“The public doesn’t really have an idea what kind of data is being recorded and where the data goes, and who controls the data, and what the criteria is for us pulling the data and using it,” said Jean-Huy Tran, We the People, San Diego.

Concerns about how data is collected by the "Smart Streetlight" program and how it is used has been a concern for several months.

In December 2016, the City Council approved upgrading the city’s lighting infrastructure with smart streetlights, according to the City’s staff report on the policy on streetlight sensor data use. According to the staff report, the streetlight sensors "create a connected digital network that allows the City to better understand the urban environment and "help City staff provide better services to our residents and increase efficiencies for City operations."

The next meeting for the Public Safety and Livable Neighborhood committee is February 12. 

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