By Nancy Tung
Last year, Stop Crime SF received a participatory grant to place cameras in District 7. While this is a step in the right direction, there are large numbers of residents in San Francisco that can’t afford or know how to install their own cameras to protect their homes.
Neighborhood crimes — including loitering, illegal dumping, and package theft — and the availability of lower cost home camera systems makes installation of these cameras a good way to extend the defensible perimeter of your home.
Earlier this year, I met Amy, a San Francisco public school teacher who has been a decade’s long resident in the Bayview. She was at a Bayview District Police Captain’s meeting asking if the police could do anything about the issues happening on her corner — defecation on her front porch, loitering, drug sales. The police encouraged her to call the police when she saw something happening but acknowledged that a response would be prioritized among the other calls happening at the same time.
Amy and I talked about other types of solutions for the issues she was having. While a police response would be nice, it would not always be the fastest or most effective way to address these issues around her property. We discussed installing a couple of cameras on her home to allow her to monitor activity around her home.
Stop Crime SF helped Amy with the cost of the cameras and helped select ones that were right for her situation. The cameras we selected had lights and a speaker with an alarm noise as well. After we installed the cameras, Amy and I discussed the effect of having them on her home.
Q: What kinds of crime and safety problems do you have in your neighborhood?
A: Public intoxication and drug sales, loitering, assault, trash dumping, threats of harm, public urination and defecation, public displays of domestic violence, and disturbing the peace.
Q: Have you made any complaints about these problems? What kind of response do you get from the police or other city agencies?
A: I have called 311, used the 311 app, called the police, visited the police many, many times over a decade. The most recent police response was “we are not going to be able to solve this problem.” Sometimes it was "we will send someone." Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. Sometimes it's quick, sometimes it's not. There’s a lot of illegal dumping in my neighborhood. Even when trash and furniture are picked up by the City, more appears soon after.
Q: Why did you want security cameras installed on your home?
A: The biggest problem I was having was someone from using my front step as a toilet on a daily basis. I had to pick up feces on multiple occasions. I think that having the security cameras will keep that from happening. There are also drug sales happening in front of my house. The cameras can record what happens in front of my house, so I might be able to provide the police with some video of it happening.
Q: Do the cameras make you feel safer?
A: Yes. I also have a grade school child living with me, so it helps her feel safer as well.
Q: Do you think the cameras would be helpful to police if there were a crime that occurred near your home?
A: Hopefully yes. The resolution is pretty good, even at night.
Q: Do you think the cameras are a visual deterrent to crime in your neighborhood or near your property?
A: Yes. I’ve already noticed a difference in some of the loitering and defecation on and around my property.
Q: Any other thoughts?
A: Thanks so much for your help, it is really appreciated!
Nancy Tung serves on the board of Stop Crime SF. The views in this blog post are her own, as a resident of San Francisco. Tung is also a candidate for District Attorney.