Posted in California News

All eyes on Highway 4

You are in the car, driving on the freeway, the usual routine. The radio plays in the background as you watch the road and reflect on the day. Look at the time, you’re late. You switch lanes to get ahead and notice a loud sound and the car behind you begins to swerve. You check your rear-view mirror. Are they drunk? What just happened? 

You keep driving.

A young woman has just been shot and killed.

The right to bear arms has been a debatable topic, as the same weapons used for protection and security, are the same weapons that are used to claim innocent lives and damage families. In the wrong hands, the consequences are irreversible.

According to KRON 4, “there have been 24 shooting incidents in the past six months on East Bay Highways.” With five of those incidents being in the Pittsburg and Antioch area, just in the last two months. As a result, the City Council has created a call to action.

The council received a grant of $100,000 for six cameras, which have been said to cover the east and west ends of Highway 4. With a view of all lanes and the capability to zoom in on moving objects, the high quality cameras will serve as a deterrent to assault of any kind.

In a city filled with surveillance, over 150 cameras, will they prove to be effective?

Ten monitors display live footage captured from 150 surveillance cameras throughout The City of Pittsburg. Photo by Larena Hernandez

Sergeant Keefe, with the Pittsburg Police Department, is positive that the cameras will help prevent assault on the freeway and solve investigations.

“We’re trying to stay away from the Big Brother idea…but I can think of at least 10 different cases that were solved with the help of the cameras,” said Keefe.

While the footage is not manned, or monitored, during the live feed, officers have access to remote in from their cell phones at any time.

The public’s privacy is a delicate subject and some are hesitant toward the idea of surveillance.

Privacy advocate, Rebecca Jeschke, from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, worries that constant access to the public’s everyday lives could potentially be abused and impose on privacy policies.

“For what purposes would it [the footage] be searched?  Only for shootings?  Or could police use it as part of an investigation to track a criminal suspect for something
else? And would they need a warrant for that, or could they just watch the video? ”

These are questions she advises that residents ask.

“It’s true that what you do in public is public, but we don’t expect that
our public activities will be recorded, 24/7, and kept forever for any
purpose,” said Jeschke.

Keefe is certain that the cameras will only be referred to for investigations, “Picture a nanny cam, you don’t go look at what’s happening unless you need to. They’re [the cameras] for investigations only.”

The cameras are said to be installed by the end of July, “We’re trying to get them installed as soon as possible. We have to get power and permits and will have to close the freeway down at night,” said Keefe.

As assault by firearms has become a growing trend in the Pittsburg and Antioch area, the Richmond PD was able to share how they have been able to decrease gun violence in recent years.

Lieutenant Hill has been with the Richmond Police Department for 23 years and has witnessed the fluctuation in crime. In the last ten years, gun violence has decreased dramatically. “Awareness has been the biggest factor. Young people know a friend or family member who’s been a victim of gun violence and they’re more aware,” said Hill. In addition to community awareness, Hill spoke of the different programs that have been in effect to help minimize gun violence, “we have the Office of Neighborhood Safety, so when they hear stuff on the streets, they’ll pull the two groups in to talk.”

The City of Richmond has continued to fight the war on firearms, with a focus on rehabilitation. The STAR (Substance Abuse Treatment Recovery) program is a, “curriculum-based educational program designed to motivate parolee substance abusers to participate in post-release recovery activities.” This program has also been a contributing factor to Richmond’s decline in gun violence, according to Hill.

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 12.28.55 PM
Data courtesy of Richmond PD

There is hope for Pittsburg and Antioch. With community engagement and awareness, positive changes can be made.

Lieutenant Hill provides freeway safety tips for drivers:

  • Be observant
  • Always remove yourself from harm’s way
  • If you notice suspicious activity, pull over and call 911 and try to provide as much detail about the car as possible and the sooner, the better

As the installation plans are in process, CHP has more than doubled, as officers pull in overtime. In addition to increased highway patrol, the Pittsburg PD hosted a gun buyback program, which launched June 18.

Residents gathered in the parking lot of the City Hall and traded their guns for Target gift cards.

Officer Glasper inspects multiple rifles from the trunk of a car during the Anonymous Gun Buy Back Program. Photo by Larena Hernandez

The city is taking all preventative measures to win the battle against gun violence.

“It’s not cheap, but what price do you put on safety? It’s priceless,”  said Keefe.

Surrounding cities and counties are expected to follow in Pittsburg’s steps. For more information on the cameras, contact Captain Raman at 925.252.4839.