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Downtown H.B. visitors soon to be on camera

July 16, 2013|By Anthony Clark Carpio

Huntington Beach residents and visitors will soon be recorded on camera in the downtown area after council members voted to allow police to purchase and install a surveillance system.

The action made by council members would allow the police department to reallocate $150,000 from within its budget to pay for and install these cameras.

The item passed 5-1, with Mayor Pro Tem Matthew Harper dissenting and Councilwoman Jill Hardy absent for the night.

"This is a public safety action that is necessary," Councilman Joe Shaw said. "I don't think it's intrusive. These are public areas. I believe we'll really be able to crack down on some of the crime that's going on downtown."

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Harper disagreed with his colleague and said he's "concerned about the expansion of local government into our daily lives."

Surveillance cameras in downtown were first brought to the dais during the Feb. 4 meeting when Shaw and Councilman Joe Carchio brought it to the table.

During a June study session, Police Chief Ken Small presented a proposal to council members about video cameras and said they were a "very useful tool for law enforcement."

Carchio said they are only looking to install cameras in problem areas, such as the bike racks underneath the pier and alleys near Main Street and Walnut Avenue.

Capt. Russell Reinhart said since the department is understaffed this year, it will be "taking savings from personnel costs and moving that to operations so we can purchase this camera system."

"We're not cancelling anything or some other program," he said. "We've had savings since we were understaffed."

About five cameras will be placed around downtown with signs underneath them telling visitors that the area is under surveillance, Reinhart said.

"It's not required, but we want to do that," he said. "What we want to do is prevent crime. And if it doesn't prevent crime, the secondary benefit is it will help solve crimes."

The surveillance camera issue was one of three items passed on Monday to help curb crime in the downtown area.

Council members continued to crack down on the drinking issue in downtown by adopting a resolution that would tell police to formally protest any application for future off-sale alcohol permits in the area. It passed 5-1 with Harper dissenting.

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