We took a photograph of every camera visible from the sidewalks of every block from Telegraph to Webster between 22nd Street and 27th Street. We picked this area because it’s characterized by varying levels of gentrification; high-end restaurants and boutiques run down Broadway and a few of the numbered streets, while developers are working hard to brand this section of Telegraph as “KoNo,” or Koreatown Northgate.

Two  2 UCB students  mapped all the surveillance cameras in Oakland’s Uptown area–this is what they found.

mapping icu
We are two white women who go to UC Berkeley. We walk around using smartphones to take photos. Despite having positioned ourselves in front of hundreds of cameras, only one of us was stopped; it happened only once. This has not been representative of the experiences of people of color working on ICU, and we doubt it is representative the experiences of Oaklanders in general. We guess that for reasons of race and class, we’re probably actually not widely perceived to be “suspicious.”

Read quotes from passersby here.

About The Author

Susan Mernit is editor & publisher of Oakland Local (oaklandlocal.com) a news & community hub for Oakland, CA. A former VP at AOL & Netscape, & former! Yahoo Senior Director, Mernit was consulting program manager for The Knight News Challenge, 2008-09; was a 2012 Stanford Carlos McClatchy Fellow; and is a board adviser to The Center for Health Reporting at USC, Annenberg School of Journalism. She has consulted with many non-profit organizations on strategy, product development and social media/engagement, including Salon.com, TechSoup Global, Public Radio International and the Institute for Policy Studies/Economic Hardship Reporting Project, led by Barbara Ehrenreich.

7 Responses

  1. JR

    Interesting project by a couple of students. Just my judgement of their project after looking at the link provided, but they seem like typical college kids: not a lot of experience in the real world.

    Back in the real world: I get updates from OPD through NextDoor and Twitter and their are countless examples of cameras apprehending criminals. OPD wears cameras now, and they suggest cameras as a deterrent to crimes and as a tool to catch criminals.

    Please give me more cameras, I’m not afraid.

  2. Rob Abrams

    The teaser to this story said the findings of this project would blow my mind. And the project sounds great, and I would love to hear details. I cannot find your results on this site, besides the fact that there are hundreds of cameras in Oakland. That is not surprising, nor does it blow my mind. The other idea hinted at in Oakland Local was that the survey takers were not stopped or harassed by anyone while they documented the cameras. Have you done any scientific surveys, varying the ethnicity and gender of the people searching for the surveillance cameras? And finally, would a white college woman react differently than an African-American male to the same questions(asked with the same attitude) about what she/he is doing ? And can you tell the motives behind the questions?(such as flirting or racism)
    Yes, the map is a sign of the times, and that is good or bad depending on who you are, but please let us know what else we can learn from your experiences.

  3. Art

    It’s worth noting that most of this area is Police Beat 8X, which has the highest crime rate of any beat in the entire city. While the cameras may seem like overkill on a map, many of them are there because the individual shop or property owners have been victims in the past. So no, not really particularly mind-blowing. It would be far more interesting to do this project in a relatively low-crime commercial district to see what’s going on there.

  4. Maximillien

    Surveillance cameras help police catch criminals. This has been proven time and time again, where storefront camera recordings have made the difference between a cold case and a suspect being apprehended. In a recent case, an 80-year old woman was shot in her car in the Oakland hills, and it was a private surveillance camera that provided the needed evidence to find and lock up the killers.

    Yes, I know that seeing such an abundance of surveillance cameras is unsettling on an emotional level. I get it. But ask yourself, what’s more harmful to the community: a bunch of cameras watching you walk down the street, or a bunch of gangbangers on the prowl for their next victim?

  5. Devon B.

    What would’ve really blown my mind was if the 2 students had actually attempted a deeper analysis of the implications of these public-facing cameras. Why is it happening? Are individual camera-clusters a response individual crimes? Is there coordination between entities? Who benefits? Who loses? What rights are being impinged and which are being further secured?

    Instead, they opted for a shallow (and highly subjective) conclusion that only served to reaffirmed their preciousness and post-racial probity. I guess the arguments to be made around stopping/solving crime vs. the expectation of privacy didn’t fit into their agenda.

    So, this is the new journalism – bypass any real community service (although the camera map is interesting, i guess), and instead, in true deus ex machina form, make a sweeping conclusion that is as unsupported (except by dated stereotypes) as it is inapplicable to the topic. You girls really are the most unique snowflakes!

    Maybe an OL writer could uncover the real stories behind the appearance of cameras. Was it simple robbery and vandalism that prompted the cameras? Or was there a pattern of victimization and violence which prompted them?


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