Bockmon & Woody Electric of Stockton was chosen from three bidders to install the cameras, which, according to city staff, will monitor the inside of the station at Sixth Street and Central Avenue, the area of the adjacent Downtown Plaza and the transit station parking lot.
The cameras are needed to deter vandalism and criminal mischief, because inadequate staffing and the size of the property make such activities difficult to track, according to city engineer Kuldeep Sharma.
Recent problems at the station include the illegal engraving of glass windows and the theft of brass and copper drain spouts.
The cameras will include video and audio capabilities and have a one-year warranty.
Councilman Robert Rickman said he agreed with this project because it’s confined to city property; however, he would look closely at any cameras proposed for other sites in the city.
“I know that there are no expectations of privacy in a public place,” Rickman said. “But I just want you to know where I sit on privacy or freedom. I’d rather err on too much freedom than not enough.”
Mayor Pro Tem Michael Maciel, who retired from the Tracy Police Department as a captain, said he is a “big proponent of cameras,” because “they are proven to be a great crime-fighting tool.”
“I think they are a great tool for crime prevention, and not only do I support cameras in the transit station and other city facilities, should funding become available, but I would welcome the opportunity to review any proposals that would expand that to general public areas.”
Rickman, who is a sergeant with the California Highway Patrol, cited a 2011 U.S. Department of Justice finding that public cameras lowered crime in Baltimore by 38 percent but “had almost no effect” in Washington, D.C.
“So, cameras in it of themselves, depending on the area, it could be a deterrent or it may not,” he said.
Cameras are already installed on city-owned Tracer buses, and the footage is viewed only when an incident is reported, according to Ed Lovell, who works with the Parks Community Division overseeing the transit station.
Tracy Police Department Chief Gary Hampton said video and audio cameras can be used as surveillance tools to actively monitor public areas or to track traffic flow through intersections, which helps city engineers adjust traffic light patterns.
Cameras in the police department’s headquarters are all being converted to record and store footage, Hampton said. He also noted that the only public cameras that city police monitor are in Gretchen Talley Park.
“We monitor that as necessary, and the council expressed their concern years ago about having a park monitored by government officials,” he said. “So when we monitor that, it’s as needed based upon the crime trends and events (at the park).”
Footage from Tracer buses is reviewed only by Lovell, and it’s only accessible for about a month before it is automatically erased from a city server. The same procedure will hold true for cameras at the transit station.
“It’s not just going to be open access to anybody to come take a look at it or even access it to take the recordings off of that hard drive,” Lovell said.
City attorney Daniel Sodergren said the city has no standard operating procedures for who has access to bus footage or how those recordings can be saved and distributed.
He noted that all recordings are available to the public through a public records act request.
The council’s vote also authorized $50,000 to be used from the transit capital fund to supplement the remaining price of the cameras.
• Contact Joel Danoy at 830-4229 or email@example.com.