On Tuesday night, Berkeley officials unanimously approved new city surveillance cameras police hope will help investigate crimes and serious traffic collisions.
The cameras will also be used to investigate reports of police misconduct as well as in the case of critical incidents and natural disasters.
They will be mounted at 10 key intersections where authorities hope they will be more likely to record people entering and exiting Berkeley.
The cameras will be posted on Ashby Avenue, Dwight Way, University Avenue, San Pablo Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Officials said they would like to review the locations periodically to determine whether they have been effective.
On Tuesday night, community members spoke for and against the cameras.
Those in favor said police need to have access to modern tools to investigate crimes while those against spoke of civil liberties and concerns about disparate impacts on communities of color.
Authorities agreed on a 180-day retention period for camera footage and said there would be an annual review of the equipment due to existing city policies.
Council members thanked their colleague Terry Taplin for being a strong advocate of the camera program over the years.
"I want to thank you for taking on the fire to do the best you can for your community," Councilman Ben Bartlett told him.
Officials did not say when the cameras might be installed — but all agreed that it should happen expediently.
"We need to get these cameras up and running as soon as possible," Mayor Jesse Arreguin said.
Shootings are down in Berkeley this year but overall crime — including robbery, carjacking, arson, assault and battery, vehicle theft, burglary and theft — are up compared to 2022.
Councilwoman Kate Harrison said she was in favor of the cameras, particularly if there is a robust review of their effectiveness.
But she said they won't solve all of the city's public safety challenges.
"In general, nothing replaces a police officer," Harrison said. "We have gotta get the force back up."
Like many agencies around the nation, the Berkeley Police Department is struggling with a historic staffing crisis.
The department is authorized to hire about 180 officers but has closer to 120 officers available for duty.
See The Berkeley Scanner's Twitter thread of meeting highlights from Tuesday night. Unfortunately, as of July 2023, a Twitter account is now required to view the thread. Review the approved agenda item, which was updated slightly Tuesday night. (The document does not reflect council edits.)