The proposed DAC aka Domain Awareness Center, linking private and OPD operated surveillance video, Shotspotter microphones, license scanners is probably a done deal as far as this Tuesday’s City Council vote goes. But it’s a fiscally dumb deal that will divert money away from improving the timing and quality of OPD response to crimes, as well as taking money away from non-policing efforts that can be effective. The Feds waive a 10 Million dollar grant, and contractors and OPD brass promise crime reduction nirvana. Hard for our Mayor and Council to resist when so many residents have been crime victims.
The Council members are out of their depths on evaluating a tech project this complex. One council member even suggested approving DAC but forbidding data storage. Apparently that CM did not understand how pattern and facial recognition software works. Without storage, the DAC is just a big useless CCTV system that would require dozens of employees staring at displays.
DAC should be called the Data Acquisition Center because that’s what it has to be for better or worse.
Normally I would give links to primary documents supporting my assertions. I hate it even when real journalists don’t do that.
That’s particularly hard for my contention that the DAC will be an extremely expensive ineffective use of city funds to fight crime because it’s what city officials didn’t say, not what they did say.
They did not give detailed verifiable projected costs for maintaining the DAC software/hardware.
Council got only a vague “back of the envelope” guesstimate from staff what it will cost to operate, maintain, and support this extremely complex hardware/software project after the initial Federal grants expire in two years. That’s the same time when annual budget deficits of >100 Million are projected to hit by the City’s budget department.
They did not provide proof that the DAC would reduce crime other than maybe property crime in commercial areas.
But we do know that OPD does not have the funding to provide the community beat cops that Measure Y promised us ten years ago. We’re about to spend millions on a new OPD radio system because the one we designed was a loser. We don’t even have cell phone 911 reporting system. We also know that OPD is so badly managed that it holds the nation’s record of longest running Federal oversight at a cost of millions.
Regardless of your thoughts about privacy risks posed by the DAC, the City Council will be committing us to unknown fiscal risks that will threaten proper funding of basic OPD staffing for adequate cops on the street and investigators.
Originally, this grant was only meant for the Port. That made sense and was fiscally responsible because of its limited scope. Then OPD brass and some City officials decided to cover the whole city. Oakland will be one of the first to expand from just a port type surveillance data gathering system to a city wide system, there just aren’t any good sources of info about what those costs might be.
Many of my clients are software companies. I did talk to the chief engineer at one of them. He laughed when he heard that Oakland was going to take on a major big data project like this with 0 internal experience and expertise. KQED interviewed a disinterested techie who also was skeptical about Oakland succeeding.
“When you start by grabbing whatever data you can find and then hoping to get insight out of it later, it becomes a very drawn-out expensive process,” says Feris Rifai, “and frankly a bit of an upside-down approach.” (“Rifai is CEO of Bay Dynamics, a San Francisco company that builds big data tools for big banks.” )
There must be people reading this who do have the expertise to venture a guesstimate of the costs to care and feed for a custom big data project like this. Would like to hear what they say about estimated costs of such a project.
The group organizing around privacy issues used an information request to collect all the city staff emails on the DAC. Looks like city staff bent over backwards to push DAC thru. Damn the privacy concerns. Lie about the city’s anti-nuclear weapon contract law. Avoid talking about what the future expense to Oakland will be.
A lot of this comes down to whether you want to give our local elected officials the benefit of the doubt and assume they and city staffers know what they’re doing in this complex intersection of managing large tech projects, public policy, and privacy rights. They don’t want to violate our privacy or waste money that could be spent more effectively on reducing crime. They’re just average well-meaning people who have neither the financial or technical know-how about complex tech projects, and are inherently optimistic about their power to use laws to protect us from government abuses. Come re-election time they would have to explain to an electorate angry about crime why they would turn down 10Mill from the Feds just because a bunch of OO crazies disrupted City Council meetings.
The crazies are right this time.
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