The Mission Creep of Smart Streetlights

It began with a deadly shooting at 5th Avenue and Market Street. In August 2018, the San Diego Police Department began requesting access to the cameras embedded in the city’s new streetlights to help solve a particularly grisly crime.

More recently, investigators wanted to know who dumped concrete in Sorrento Valley.

The definition of what constitutes a crime worthy of investigating with the aid of one of San Diego’s thousands of camera-equipped streetlights is growing, and there aren’t clear definitions in place…

As questions and criticism of the project began to swell last year, Jordon met with the City Council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee. Elected officials wanted to know how the project had gone from counting cars to fighting crime, and what criteria would be used to justify the ongoing access. It had been sold in 2016 as a means of reducing energy costs and collecting environmental and transportation data.