West Seattle residents sound off about police surveillance cameras




Posted on March 13, 2013 at 8:31 AM

SEATTLE -- A series of new surveillance cameras are expected to be installed along Seattle's waterfront by the end of the month. Police say it's about public safety, but some residents feel it's an invasion of privacy. 

Tuesday marked the first in a series of public hearings on the issue. Several dozen West Seattle residents showed up at the Alki Bathhouse Tuesday evening, to voice their concerns.

"I'm following this issue because it kind of scares me," said Valerie Ikehara. "I'm not an activist, by any means. I'm a single mom with a really busy lifestyle, but this feels really creepy."

Another resident called it a "giant, big brother, spy operation."

Assistant Police Chief Paul McDonagh insists that is not the case.

"Seattle is a very close city, but we also have to remember we're an international city with a port," he said. "So we have to protect the port to protect our city, and that's one of the reasons, the biggest reason, that we put in for this project."

McDonagh says additional cameras are needed to expand that port security network.

On Tuesday, he got a lot of questions about exactly how and when the cameras will be used by police. Residents also wanted to know why the police department didn't notify the community before those cameras were installed.

McDonagh admits, in hindsight, the public should have been notified -- even though the cameras are not yet operational.

"I had press conference time set up so we could make the announcement, and unfortunately other issues came up and we weren't able to do it, so it kept getting pushed back," he said.

He also says the grant that paid for the cameras put the police department on a tight timeline, but insists there was no deliberate attempt to hide anything.

"That doesn't engender any trust with the public," said Ikehara. 

Tuesday's meeting lasted about two hours, and included a back-and-forth conversation between concerned residents and police.

Additional meetings will be held over the next few weeks. Residents can also email concerns to cameraquestions@seattle.gov.

McDonagh says the police department plans to take the feedback they get from those meetings, and present it to the mayor and city council for a final decision.