You may have seen them: They are in transit centers and city parks, and at a few major intersections.
“They’re not covert. They’re overt,” said San Luis Obispo police Sgt. Brian Amoroso in 2016.
And San Luis Obispo County law enforcement agencies hope the security cameras in high-crime and high-traffic areas will deter criminal activity — or at least capture it on video.
One example: In August, an elderly Arroyo Grande man in a wheelchair died after he was hit by a truck at Branch and Short streets, police say.
Arroyo Grande police Chief Beau Pryor said the crash was captured on camera and the video “shows exactly what happened and who was at fault.”
Here’s a look at security camera programs across the county:
San Luis Obispo
The San Luis Obispo Police Department began using public security cameras about four years ago, Capt. Chris Staley said. The department initially purchased two cameras and added seven more over the years.
Staley said police have cameras set at the bus transit center, Sinsheimer Pool, City Hall and the San Luis Obispo Skate Park.
The cameras have been helpful, Staley said.
“In the areas we noticed high criminal activity, we have deployed cameras and have been able to address issues there,” Staley said, “and often times reduce those issues with directed enforcement.”
The Arroyo Grande Police Department deploys the most public security cameras in San Luis Obispo County.
Since cameras were first installed in May 2013, the department has added 18 pods totaling 95 cameras throughout the city, Pryor said.
Like other agencies, Arroyo Grande police have benefited from the cameras in helping to solve a variety of crimes and determine causes for traffic collisions.
Pryor said the department has not tracked statistics for how many crimes the cameras have helped solve, but he is considering doing so in the future.
Back in 2014, Arroyo Grande’s cameras famously captured videos of then-City Manager Steve Adams and a subordinate stopping at City Hall late at night after getting drinks together downtown. (An investigation did not find any substantive evidence that would point to an inappropriate or romantic relationship between the pair, but the probe’s summary stated their actions exhibited poor judgment and gave the perception of some form of inappropriate conduct.)
In 2015, the Grover Beach Police Department installed eight public security cameras on a trial basis. Over the past year and a half, the department has expanded its program to 48 cameras set up along the Grand Avenue corridor, police Chief John Peters said.
“The cameras are viewable to our dispatchers and they can let officers know what is going on while they are responding if the incident is in view of the cameras,” Peters said.
Police have been able to solve hit-and-run crashes, vandalism and thefts and track other incidents as they are happening, Peters added.
In an interview with The Tribune in September 2016, Grover Beach Mayor John Shoals touted cameras at Ramona Park and along Grand Avenue as tools the city has used to “take action on transient issues.”
Earlier this year, the Paso Robles Police Department installed seven sets of security camera pods — each containing up to four cameras, some of which are stationary and some of which can pan, tilt or zoom — thanks to a $62,500 grant from the California Board of State and Community Corrections.
The pods were installed in the 100 block of Niblick Road as well as Centennial Park, Uptown Park and the Downtown City Park, according to a news release in May.
Lt. Tim Murphy said Paso Robles police have not added any new cameras over the past five months, but there is a plan to “supplement this program with additional cameras.”
A public security camera program is still in its infancy in Pismo Beach, according to police Cmdr. Shawn Singleton.
He said the Police Department has been “installing infrastructure and performing tests” in order to have a reliable camera program in the future.
Pismo police currently have three cameras — none are being used in an official capacity outside of testing — and expect to install more moving forward, Singleton said.
Morro Bay and Atascadero
Morro Bay police Cmdr. Jody Cox said the city does not currently have any public security cameras, though the department is exploring the option.
“I have spoken with members of surrounding agencies who have expressed the cameras are an effective tool to help investigate criminal activity that occurs in public spaces,” Cox said.
The Atascadero Police Department also does not use public security cameras, Sgt. Caleb Davis said.