The “E’ville Voices” guest blogger series was created to net a broader range of voices about our city in flux and initiate dialogue through opinion & conversation. Joining our guest blogger series is Maria Climaco. Maria is a 4 year triangle neighborhood resident who’s son Aya was tragically murdered in Oakland 2013. Maria addresses the City of Oakland’s controversial opposition to the “Domain Awareness Center” project that would have expanded surveillance capabilities to the OPD. Despite an understaffed police department and Oakland being the sixth most violent city in the U.S., outspoken advocates were able to defeat the measure amid fears of abuse and privacy implications.
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OPEN LETTER TO OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL AND PRIVACY ADVOCATES
I was stunned to read your stance reversal on DAC, City Council. I thought if there was an issue that you had consensus on, it was the issue of crime in Oakland. To address Ms. Lye’s question as to why “a project about port security contains surveillance from across the city,” the answer is very clear: Oakland is synonymous with crime. Depending on which survey you refer to, Oakland remains on the list of the “Top Five Most Dangerous Cities in the Nation” for the last decade or so. It doesn’t help that Oakland has a police department that is severely understaffed and under-resourced. So understaffed is the OPD that each detective handles an average of 20 cases/year, more than the effective rate of 5 cases/year. This naturally begs the question: how can city officials help abate crime if they cannot immediately resolve issues of staffing and resources? Here’s where DAC can be put to good use.
To be sure, there is potential for abuse but this is where you come in, City Council Members. Correct me if I’m wrong, but just as you can develop proposals that become policy, you can also refine these proposals to mitigate potential for abuse. Surely a balance can be struck to address the potential for abuse whilst fighting crime via increased/enhanced surveillance. We have to have a solutions-oriented City Council if we ever hope to address crime abatement. If the concern is invasion of privacy, I would like to believe that if one has nothing to hide, then one has nothing to fear. After all, once you step out of your house, EVERY ONE CAN SEE YOU irrespective of presence of cameras. It’s not like cameras will be installed inside your house, a’ la Big Brother.
Of course, I’m saying this to make a point and not merely to be overly simplistic or facetious. After all, crime is neither a simple nor a laughing matter. In fact, I cringe every time I read, “no arrests have been made” after a shooting or a violent crime has been committed. But the simple truth is, we have to exercise common sense in the matter of surveillance. Perhaps if Oakland isn’t consistently ranked the 2nd or 3rd most violent city in the US of A, perhaps if the ratio of police officer to resident is better than 1:638, perhaps if the city doesn’t have an abysmally low crime-solve rate, then, yes, I’d ask why does Oakland need to integrate surveillance from parts of the city to the DAC. Before you ask how does surveillance help solve crime, please remember Quinn Boyer, the paramedic who was shot and killed in 2013. This crime was partially caught on camera. That’s why the perpetrator is now on trial for his crime. So, isn’t it time to back your words into action, City Council Members? Isn’t it time to help an overburdened, overworked OPD? Isn’t it time to actually do something about crime abatement?
To privacy advocates, I ask you if your privacy is more important than public safety in a violent city such as Oakland? Is your privacy more important than giving OPD the help they desperately need and homicide victims the justice they deserve? (Like I said, surely a balance can be struck.) Before you answer this question, please note that I once shared your privacy concerns but believe sensible policy is key to solving many issues.
Before you answer this question, please consider this: the person who made you laugh the most, the only person who loved you unconditionally, the person who made you smell his stinky feet, the one who made your heart burst with such pride and joy because of his humanity, the person who explained the rules of basketball to you, the one who sang “What a Wonderful World” to you and brought out the best in you. Imagine this person who made you happy for nearly 23 years, shot an hour before his birthday for trying to do the right thing. Imagine never hearing his voice calling you “mom” and never seeing his smiling face again.
I beg of you to consider this before you say your right to privacy is more important than my son’s right to justice.
Aya Nakano’s Mother
Further reading & resources
See no evil: inside one city’s quest to kill its surveillance program | The Verge
In ‘Domain Awareness,’ Detractors See Another NSA | NPR
Oakland surveillance center progresses amid debate on privacy, data collection | CIR