Are Police Surveillance Cameras for OB’s Waterfront “a Done Deal”?

by on November 19, 2015 · 28 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Environment, Media, Ocean Beach, Organizing, Politics, San Diego

OB Warm beach

Are the police cameras proposed for OB’s waterfront “a done deal”? That’s a big question facing the community of Ocean Beach these days.

Lorie Zapf’s office wants you to think so. The councilwoman wants those ten surveillance cameras planned to be set up between the OB Pier and Dog Beach. For Lorie and her staff, it is “a done deal”.  From all appearances, it looks like Zapf’s office is putting itself on the line on this issue, and strikes a very uncompromising stance on the cameras. “It’s a done deal.”

For the cops, it’s “a done deal”. There’s even a new spin on the cameras. They’re now “lifeguard surveillance cameras”. This was spun at the recent Crime Prevention sub-committee meeting earlier this week.

For the City Attorney’s office, it’s “a done deal’. At the same meeting just mentioned, their rep explained how the cameras will be used.

And for many of the merchants who sit on the Crime Prevention sub-committee of the OBMA, it’s also “a done deal”.  Some of them have been looking forward to the cameras “for years”.

But are they? Are the cameras truly a done deal?

Ask members of the OB Citizens Against Privacy Abuse this question and most of them will show you a scowl. They don’t think it’s a done deal.

Ask the rest of the community of Ocean Beach whether it’s  a done deal.

Many of them don’t even know about them. There’s been no community-wide debate or discussion about the cameras. And from what we know, not one OB organization has voted to endorse or support the police cameras. Let’s repeat that:

Not one OB organization has voted to endorse or support the police cameras.

But we’re told it’s a done deal.

Yet, it seems the only thing standing between the cameras going up over the next month and a half or so is this tiny group of OBceans – Citizens Against Privacy Abuse – who oppose them.

Their common complaint – besides the cameras themselves – is, again, that “nobody in OB knows about them.” Neither the City nor community groups like the OBMA, its sub-committee or OBCDC have tried to get the word out. The OBMA knew about the cameras as early as last June. And the City and Zapf’s office have not done too much on the PR angle. No one has denied them and there have been brief presentations on them at recent community meetings. But how many people go to those meetings compared with the nearly 15,000 OB residents?

It’s almost as if those who wanted the cameras wanted them up before anyone noticed – they’re up – end of discussion.

And this lack of knowledge about what is coming down – or actually – going up –  among the villagers gets these members of Citizens Against Privacy Abuse stirred up.

The group is not standing still. They’re holding meetings, attending other group meetings; they’ve set up an email ( ), they’re working on fliers, and they’re looking into setting up a town hall forum on the issue.

Well, the word is starting to get out. Local NBC and CBS TV stations have now both done stories on the cameras and the opposition. And everyday new people are contacting CAPA via their email wanting to get involved.

Maybe some day, there will actually be a open neighborhood-wide debate about them.


{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Randy L. November 19, 2015 at 2:55 pm

I oppose the cameras and will help spread the word as much as I can. If we allow these cameras, what’s next….cameras on every street, drones flying around for surveillance ?!!


intlpmp November 19, 2015 at 3:05 pm

Of course it’s a done deal… since when has this country displayed any semblance of democracy?


Frank Gormlie November 19, 2015 at 4:19 pm

That’s a bit cynical. Political grassroots power does exist. It just has to be exercised. The history of America is the history of the conflict between democracy and empire within our society. There is an arch of social justice – it moves slowly.


rick callejon November 19, 2015 at 5:07 pm

The beach cameras will produce warrantless video recordings. Warrantless as in no judicial authorization. And warrantless as in no justification/ no need for the presence of the cameras.


Randall November 20, 2015 at 6:06 am

Aside from the privacy issues. 10 cameras excessive. That whole stretch can be covered by 2 to 4 cameras. There is already 2 pan and scan cameras on the OB hotel.


tyler November 20, 2015 at 7:10 am

If you are concerned about privacy then you shouldn’t be in favor or less cameras. The whole point of 10 is so they overlap and none could be potentially manipulated or called into question.


jettyboy November 20, 2015 at 9:55 am

That makes no sense at all. If i”m concerned about privacy i Should want cameras, and more cameras? WTF!


Tyler November 21, 2015 at 9:32 am

My point is IF there will be more cameras, then you should be in favor of them not being exploiting via manipulation.


Heisenberg November 20, 2015 at 7:03 am

If you’re really concerned about your privacy and Big Brother, you would be much better advised to get rid of the smartphone in your pocket. That poses a much bigger risk to your privacy than some cameras installed on a public beach.


Marc Snelling November 20, 2015 at 8:42 am

People decide if they want to carry a cell phone or take the battery out. Being surveilled by these cameras is not a choice for beach goers.


RogueFive November 20, 2015 at 9:29 am

Privacy no longer exists. You’re on camera everywhere you go, whether it be from cameras like these or someone taking random photos with their cellphone camera. Want your privacy ? Lock your doors, close your blinds and stay off the internet.


unwashedwallmartthonG November 20, 2015 at 10:00 am

My flip phone says this about that:
Turning location off will disable the GPS capability of your phone for all purposes except 911, but will not hide your approximate location based on the cell site serving your call and, thus will not disable all location based services.
Big Brother & its tentacled minions expand daily. Whatever happened to Cop/Community relations? You know the kind, it’s where the cop actually gets out of the blaknwhite & waddles somewhere w/ arms akimbo to talk to people.


BTB November 20, 2015 at 2:44 pm

Yes.. perfect point. Tried to talk to a traffic officer the other day and he looked at me like I was a loon.


Christo November 20, 2015 at 10:41 am

Just watch “Enemy Of The State”.

In many ways we are already far beyond that.


South OB Girl November 20, 2015 at 10:55 am

Big hope that the video footage of the beach never gets hacked and goes viral… Putting my friends and me in our bikinis on some website when we don’t want those pics out there…. I can see that would be some weirdo’s project and I wouldn’t put it past someone to come up with a scheme like that… Or video footage of children. Any discussion about the security-encryption measures for these cameras?? As with any change, many pros and cons.


rick callejon November 20, 2015 at 12:53 pm

Decision makers hope that compliant OBecians will unquestioningly swallow the camera Kool-Aid. There has been virtually no community input, much less discussion, on the possible ramifications of warrantless video surveillance.


Heisenberg November 20, 2015 at 1:17 pm

The term “warrantless” has been used twice here and it’s a misnomer. Warrants are only required to photograph/videotape private property. The beach is public property. No warrants or other judicial authorization is necessary.

There is no such thing as a right not to be photographed while on public property. In fact, for private citizens, the right to take photos/video of public property is actually protected under 1st Amendment.


Frank Gormlie November 20, 2015 at 3:20 pm

Warrants are required, let me remind you, to enter one’s residence and seize that someone or her / his property. Of course, that ‘home-privilege’ doesn’t accompany the citizen into public space.

But the entire issue of privacy – rather, intrusion into citizens privacy – is a big deal these days, as Edward Snowden has showed us and the world. Our privacy is continually under attack by sources of intrusion.

So, what about the private person in a public space? A public park or beach? Does that person – as a free person – have any right not to be recorded by the government, the police – either in real time or sometime in the future – without probable cause that the person is engaged in criminal behavior, or a warrant?

In other words, does the citizen in public space NOT engaged in criminal behavior have the right not to be recorded by police?

We may have to maintain that the private person – the citizen – is enveloped in a “zone of privacy” no matter where she or he is, as the government cannot intrude into that space without reasonable cause, warrant, etc. No cell phones can be tapped or traced, no voice recorded, no image recorded without prior consent – anywhere, even on a public beach.

In the name of enhanced security, “deterrence”, OB may be about to enter the world of a society that is increasing becoming a society under surveillance.

This is the world of George Orwell, the world of 1984. Didn’t we get the message? Is this the society we want?

Whether it’s because of threats from terrorists or the travelers, we erect cameras to watch our every movement in every space. Every inch of public and private space are rapidly becoming watched and recorded.

If the cameras go up in OB, someday, somewhere else in a neighborhood of San Diego, camera proponents will say: “Look, even liberal and hippie OB has the cameras, so they can’t be bad.”

OB is better than that. America is better than that.


Heisenberg November 20, 2015 at 4:16 pm

“In other words, does the citizen in public space NOT engaged in criminal behavior have the right not to be recorded by police?”

Quite simply, no. When you’re in a public space, there is no such thing as a right not to be recorded – by ANYONE (whether the government or private citizens).

As a journalist, you should know this firsthand. Your organization relies heavily upon the freedom to record in public spaces.


Frank Gormlie November 24, 2015 at 9:59 pm

The OB Rag is NOT the government. And that’s the point. It’s the government watching the citizens. A free people, Heisenberg, have a right not to be recorded or watched by their government, don’t they? If not, then the police have the authority to place surveillance cameras in all public space. Is this the society we want?


OB Dude November 25, 2015 at 7:48 am

This just posted on – how about community policing – Police out of their cars, walking the beat, interacting with the community, protecting and serving – explore that concept!

Ocean Beach Carmera System 11/25/15
Officer David Surwilo from San Diego Police Department

Citizen’s of Western Division,

In a partnership with City Council Member Lori Zaft, the Ocean Beach Life Guards and San Diego Police Department’s Western Division funding has been secured to install a camera system along the waterfront of Ocean Beach. The camera system shall be installed from the OB Pier to Dog Beach and the monitors shall be located at the life guard tower. Still a few months away from installation the cameras they could be up as soon at January or February. To mention just a few reasons they will benefit the community the cameras will be very useful for police in collecting evidence that documents crimes such as assaults and theft of personal property and, assist the life guards in locating lost children and observing crowd numbers along the waterfront to better staff lifeguard towers.

Below is a link to a recent article covering one of the many meeting and public forums officers and life guard staff have attended to inform the community and answer questions from the general public.

Officer David Surwilo


Heisenberg November 25, 2015 at 1:58 pm

I’m not saying the government SHOULD record public spaces. I’m just trying to correct what appears to be a misunderstanding of our rights as citizens. You keep asserting that people have a right not to be recorded by the government in a public space. But no such right exists, and never has.

You’re free to oppose these cameras for a number of reasons. But claiming they violate your rights is simply not accurate.


rick callejon November 20, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Camera coverage of the beach is unwarranted. The police video surveillance may be legal, but it is unneeded and unwanted in Ocean Beach.


hOBie November 20, 2015 at 3:40 pm

OB Hotel has a cam here:

Surfline has a cam here:

Big Brother may not be watching (don’t count on it), but a whole lotta surfers are. Just sayin…


Frank Gormlie November 24, 2015 at 10:00 pm

Beeg diff between surfers watching you and the police watching you.


Lori Hegerle November 20, 2015 at 8:12 pm

My first reaction is NO WAY…..then……well, I don’t have anything to hide….then NO WAY……. although, the point made by lifeguards about finding lost children is valid… It is 1984!!! Is it necessary? Have we come to this? Are we reading too much into it? Are we not reading enough into it? I still come back to probably no, but still not sure. I did read on some site that MB has them and some thought that they did deter some crime…(is crime really worse?)…though due to lack of funding they no longer are working. I guess the City provides upkeep for a year and then after that the community is responsible for the upkeep. So, at the best or the worst we would have them until they break.


South OB Girl November 21, 2015 at 9:18 am

Correct me if I am wrong please — but I believe the cameras in MB ended up not working. Technical issues or something. And previously cameras helped crack down on the prostitution issue on El Cajon Blvd. Both these points were mentioned by SDPD at last month’s OBTC meeting.


Cholly November 20, 2015 at 8:21 pm

It’s the law enforcement/industrial establishment. You really think they are are going to stop at ten cameras? Like Country Joe said: ” there’s plenty of money to be supplying ’em the tools of their trade!”


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