Community coalition hosts forum on ‘smart streetlights’

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SAN DIEGO — A group of community organizations that have banned together to hold forums on San Diego’s smart streetlights held a meeting in Mira Mesa Wednesday.

Over the last month, more than 20 organizations have joined to form the San Diego Transparent and Responsible Use of Surveillance Technology Coalition, or TRUST Coalition.

The streetlight cameras gather data on parking, pedestrians, traffic flow, weather conditions and have even been used to aid in solving crime.

About 4,200 of the smart sensor cameras are in place throughout neighborhoods in San Diego and some city residents are concerned about what happens to that information.

“Once it is uploaded to the third party company, that becomes processed data and that company has special rights to that data as far as what they can do with it,” explained Seth Hall with TechLEAD San Diego.

City leaders and police officials have been adamant it is not a “big brother” situation. They said audio is not enabled on the cameras and they don’t utilize license plate or facial recognition.

City Council members Georgette Gómez, Monica Montgomery and Chris Ward recently called for a moratorium on new streetlights until comprehensive policies are implemented to address citizen concerns, but the moratorium was not supported by the rest of council or the mayor.

The concerned citizens want more transparency and a stake in how the cameras are used by asking the city council to consider forming an oversight commission.

There will be another community-ran forum on this issue in Linda Vista in the coming weeks and a demonstration is planned for Dec. 17.

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