City Council focuses on surveillance cameras for APEC

Tulsi Gabbard
Tulsi Gabbard
Paul Dvorack
Paul Dvorack

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation or APEC meetings begin early November and the City of Honolulu is releasing more details about the plan to keep an eye on people through surveillance cameras.

The corner at Kuhio and Seaside Avenues is one of the intersections that would get new surveillance cameras. While the plan is coming into focus, it's not a done deal yet.

There are 26 surveillance cameras up around the island now.  The Honolulu Police Department wants to install another 34 in Waikiki, Downtown and Ko'olina at a cost of nearly $1.5 million.  In addition they would also turn the more than 200 existing traffic cameras into surveillance cameras.  It would all be temporary, only while the VIP's are in town for the APEC meetings.

After the meetings have concluded the traffic cameras would go back to just monitoring traffic. And six of the 34 new cameras would still be used for surveillance.  The remainder would be redeployed as traffic cameras.

"It gives (police) another set of eyes into the areas where dignitaries are going to be, where traffic is going to be moving.  So it gives them an opportunity to see what's happening before dignitaries move and when they move into those areas and then after they move out of those areas," said Gordon Bruce, Department of Information Technology Director.

The cameras would record video not audio. HPD staff won't monitor them 24/7, in fact they can only watch 50 out of the more than 250 cameras at one time.

The key is finding a balance between safety and privacy.

"We have to be very vigilant about making sure safety and security is maintained as well as making sure first amendment rights are protected," said Tulsi Gabbard, Honolulu City Councilmember and Chair of the Committee on Safety, Economic Development and Government Affairs. "I think that we have to use all the resources we have available to us."

"If I find a camera in a restroom in Waikiki I am going to sue the city on that one," said Shannon Wood, who testified before the City Council.

The city reiterated the cameras will not be placed in private areas and especially not restrooms.  They will also not be used to catch people running red lights or speeding.

"We're going to comply with every aspect of the law," said Bruce.

The ACLU of Hawaii will be watching and threatens to take action if needed.

"We expect government to keep its word that these measures are temporary, narrowly tailored, and that implementation will comply with the Constitution," said Vanessa Chong, Executive Director, ACLU of Hawaii.  "Video surveillance is widely criticized as ineffective, expensive and invasive.  The ACLU urges government to instead use valuable tax dollars on more effective methods - like improved lighting, foot patrols and real community policing - methods that are less costly, and which protect our fundamental rights while improving public safety.

Go down to Waikiki where many of the new cameras would be, and you'll find as many opinions as there are people from different areas.

"I think it's a good idea for public safety," said Dino Garcia, Fresno, California.

"I'm on the borderline of thinking that's an invasion of privacy," said Edward Toscano, Los Angeles.

"Makes me feel safe being here, mind you I always feel safe in Hawaii but why not have it to make me feel extra safe," said Paul Dvorack, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

"I think there are bigger issues than just adding 30 security cameras. I think their money is better spent elsewhere," said Marissa Toscano, Los Angeles.

"Cameras are something that always makes a situation complex, people's freedoms are violated because of that and you never know who is watching you and I feel uncomfortable with that. I would not want to see that," said David Holceker, New Jersey.

People on both sides of the issue are invited to testify at a public hearing at Honolulu Hale on September 16 at 2:00.  The city plans to release the proposed locations for the new cameras by the end of this week.

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