LANCASTER – The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California has filed a state public records request to obtain information about the Law Enforcement Aerial Platform System. Information requested include how long the video will be kept and whether the images will be public record.
“People who have done nothing wrong shouldn’t have anything they do in their yards or homes subject to video surveillance from the sky,” senior staff attorney for the ACLU Peter Bibring told the LA Times this week. “To the extent that it involves observing things which a typical pilot overhead might not be able to see, it raises serious constitutional questions.”
Tuesday the City Council unanimously approved an agreement with Aero View LLC which would provide for an aerial surveillance system for Lancaster as soon as Spring of 2012.
Under the agreement the City would pay $1.3 million to launch the system, which outfits a Cessna 172 with cameras to deliver imagery, via an encrypted communications link, to equipment at the Lancaster Sheriff’s Station. The aircraft would provide 10 hours of aerial surveillance a day from altitudes of 1,000 to 3,000 feet. After an initial 12 months of service, the City would pay $90,000 a month to maintain aerial surveillance.
The ACLU has been especially critical of public video surveillance systems in the past. In their 2007 report “Under the Watchful Eye: The Proliferation of Video Surveillance Systems in California,” the ACLU examines “the threat posed by public video surveillance to privacy and other civil liberties.”
Page four of the 28-page report reads:
“Residents in high-crime areas, their political leaders and police officials often see surveillance systems as an obvious solution to crime. Often, however, little consideration is given to the significant evidence demonstrating that camera surveillance is ineffective, especially when compared with other alternatives…
Surveillance cameras will not improve public safety, and limited funds can be better spent on programs that are both proven effective and less invasive, such as improved lighting, foot patrols, and real community policing.”
Read the entire report here.