Law Office of Michael L. Fell
900 Roosevelt Irvine, CA 92620
(949) 585-9055

Smart Streetlights: How Will They Help Fight Crime and at What Cost?

Last year, San Diego started using smart streetlights. They claim they are there to help law enforcement better monitor the streets. These streetlights are interesting and there is an argument to be made that they are useful – but we must ask: At what cost? How much privacy is lost and is it worth it? Keep reading to get our take. If you are facing criminal charges contact a top criminal defense attorney in California.

What the Streetlights Can Do

On the surface, the streetlights may seem fine. They are energy-saving and include LED lights. They can measure air quality and traffic flow of both vehicles and people. On the other hand, they also include microphones and cameras. They have sensors that can detect any gunshots in an area, or measure open parking spots. Now this is being used as evidence in criminal cases.

Ways in Which the Smart Streetlights Are Being Implemented

Evidence from these streetlights was first used in a criminal case in 2018. A fight broke out that led to a person’s death. It was initially considered a murder case but video evidence actually exonerated the person who was suspected of the crime. How? Because the video made it clear that the suspect acted in self-defense and the charges against them were subsequently dropped.

Since then, at least 150 police investigations have used the streetlight cameras – and that number goes up every month. Police have openly discussed how helpful the cameras are and say they view footage at least 20 times per month.

There Are Serious Ethical Concerns About These Streetlights

It is true that these cameras have proven useful for people accused of crimes, but they have also been used to support criminal charges. The ACLU has issues with the cameras because they consider them to be a violation of privacy. They worry about accountability measures for police, oversight of who can see the results of these cameras, and how that information can be used.

Currently, about 100 law enforcement investigators have access to the video footage. The official policy is that this footage can only be reviewed in connection with a violent crime is in question and that any officer outside of units that deal with violent crime cannot use the footage unless they have been approved by a “designated authority.”

Can This Evidence Be Used Against You?

It has been used against other defendants. It is possible that future cases will be filed against the city for these cameras but for now they are staying. If you have been accused of a crime, contact Law Office of Michael L. Fell at (949) 585-9055 for your free legal consultation. We will work to find the best way for you to move forward from your charges.