Grassroots Ocean Beach Group Fights Public Surveillance

The Citizens Against Privacy Abuse opposes 10 newly installed security cameras

An Ocean Beach group wants to block the city's plan to install 10 surveillance cameras and point them at the public.

Proponents say 24-hour surveillance of the public space between Dog Beach and the Ocean Beach Pier will help solve crimes, protect businesses and visitors. The 10 cameras cost the city $25,000.

But the new group Citizens Against Privacy Abuse (CAPA) says the real crime would be surrendering public freedoms to a Big Brother-style community monitoring.

“There was no community discussion, no community debate,” said Frank Gormlie, the group’s organizers and OB Rag publisher.

CAPA is growing; so far two dozen people -- including members of town council, the planning board and local businesses -- have joined.

Their fight may be an uphill battle. Lighthouse Ice Cream owner Carol Ladigus joins other businesses on Newport Avenue in welcoming the extra eyes.

“I have cameras all over this place in here. I think I am used to them. I think most people are used to them. I think we would feel safer,” Ladigus said.

“People are going to think twice if they know there are more cameras out in the community before they even try anything,” South Beach bartender Julia Jacobs said.

The cameras would record 24 hours a day without live monitoring except during large events like street fairs and the July 4th holiday.

The recordings are under San Diego police control, but who else sees them or how they are used has not yet been explained.

“If people are free, and they are free to stay and live on their beach, then they need to be free and secure in the knowledge that the government, the police are not watching them. Not watching them in real time or some later time,” Gormlie said.

Ocean Beach is already under surveillance. Cameras mounted on private buildings are monitoring public space. There is even a website broadcasting the boardwalk and beach 24 hours a day.

It may feel like everybody is doing it, but CAPA says not everybody wants them.

San Diego City Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, who represents Ocean Beach’s District 2, secured the money and streamlined the camera project. Staffers say it will be implemented by the first of the year.

CAPA members are trying to first create a community forum to debate the issue.

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