Debate over government surveillance focuses on Woodinville, city approves cameras

by: John Knicely Updated:

WOODINVILLE, Wash. - Public places in Woodinville will soon be monitored by surveillance cameras. The City Council approved them Tuesday night at Police Chief Sydney Jackson’s request because of an increase in burglaries. 

The city of Woodinville spent $55,000 on the two surveillance cameras and a license plate reader.  

Only Mayor Bernie Talmas voted against them.  He and Jackson disagree on whether people should expect to be on camera in public.

“It was kind of creepy,” he said of a demonstration video that showed girls playing soccer in the fields near City Hall in January. “I think (the girls) have a right to think nobody is going to be out there videotaping them.”

The locations of the cameras aren't set, but they'll be used at major intersections and public property. Jackson said they will be recorded but not be regularly monitored. They'll only look at the video after a crime, and the cameras won't be used for traffic or civil violations.

"It's public space and you're out there in the open, and so you can be recorded. I don't have a problem with that," said Peter Fraser, who works in Woodinville.

"I do see the argument of invasion of privacy and all that," said Martin Schwarz, who lives in Woodinville. "Because it could be used to track people unwittingly."

Jackson indicated that if they find the program is not cost-effective, they could ask the City Council to stop the program. She is drawing up safeguards now against misuse, citing user logins so they can track who looked at the video.

The city is determining now when it will start using the cameras.