La PUENTE, Calif. - The City of La Puente is using some of the $7.5 million in emergency COVID-19 relief funds from the federal government to install security cameras at the newly-remodeled La Puente Park, in addition to having license plate readers on roads leading in and out of the city.
It also is offering local businesses, city-funded Ring surveillance systems, as long as they agree to share the footage with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
That’s different from the Ring app that is accessible to all law enforcement agencies that allows police to contact a Ring user who has previously signed up to be in the sharing network. According to an LASD spokesperson Deputy Tina Schrader, the Ring giveaway La Puente is using would make the sharing of "any pertinent video that would be useful to investigating criminal activity" pretty much automatic.
That is just one of the issues that critics have problems with.
The ACLU has been very vocal about its opposition to this type of program, citing privacy issues.
La Puente’s Mayor, Charlie Klinakis, says that the city is trying to address real problems. The Ring giveways are voluntary, not mandatory, to receive the grants that businesses are being offered.
Still, he adds, cameras will help in getting video records of vandalism, or issues with homeless people blocking access or scaring customers. At the popular La Indiana restaurant, which has been in the city’s downtown for over 40 years, they are still considering the offer, but not sure if they will do it. They’ve had serious issues with homeless people but "Every time we call sheriff, the trouble makers are out on the street within hours," says one of the employees.
At La Puente Park, people in the skating area say they like the idea of cameras. So does the mother of Luis Paul Rivera, who was killed in their backyard, just across the street from the park.
The crime remains unsolved, even as investigators have asked for the public’s help in what they describe as a mistaken identity drive-by shooting. Connie Rivera insists that cameras in the park would have probably captured the driver’s license plate and supports not only the cameras in the park but also the automatic license plate readers the city is installing all over town.
"What about preventing the crimes in the first place?" says Anthony Orozco, with La Puente Mutual Aid, who has led a couple of rallies at city hall. "Put those funds into programs like gang prevention, intervention, education, which in the long run will be more cost-effective and make our city safer".
The mayor says they have been doing that, but that that law enforcement can’t be everywhere, and that if one shooting is solved with the help of a camera, the cost of the system will be more than returned.
About 100 license readers will be installed in the next month, he adds. The park cameras should be going up before the end of the summer.