Seal Beach Police install 12-camera network in town

A Seal Beach Police Department camera at Main Street and Central Avenue.

The Seal Beach Police Department announced this week that 12 surveillance cameras are now up and running around town, mostly in Old Town, and more are planned to amplify the protection offered to citizens.

“This is not Big Brother,” said Lt. Nick Nicholas, who is the department’s public information officer.

Access to the information will be limited to “a select few,” according to a recent police press release.

“The purpose of these cameras is to provide for the safety of Seal Beach,” said Lt. Nick Nicholas of the Operations Bureau in an interview this week.

“There’s nothing secret about these cameras,” said Nicholas.

“No, this isn’t big brother, we’re not spying on anybody, we’re not using facial recognition, we’re not recording audio. They’re not hidden cameras, they’re not covering places where anybody would have expectation of privacy,” he said.

He pointed out that in your car or a bathroom, you have an expectation of privacy.

“It’s not to our benefit to have hidden cameras,” he said.

Nicholas said the cameras are “not looking into people’s backyards,” and said the police department will be totally transparent with the system.

He also said there are no sensors in the camera network.

In fact, the city has published a list of the camera positions on its website.

Nicholas said the program would come under the Support Services Bureau. Lt. Julia Clasby is the Support Services Bureau lieutenant.

According to Lt. Clasby, the video would be retained for 30 days. According to Lt. Nicholas, the image files are so huge that it would not be cost-effective to retain than for longer than that.

Police believe they can close out calls more quickly with the cameras.

“There are only a certain number of police officers on the street at any given time and we can’t be everywhere at once, but with live cameras, what we can do is allow the watch commander or dispatchers to observe what’s happening in real time,” he said.

The SBPD is not the first to come to this party. Most Orange County cities use surveillance cameras

According to Clasby, Seal Beach is perhaps among the last of the area local departments to install surveillance cameras, where they have been proven to be very beneficial to public safety. She said Los Angeles Police Department has been using cameras for a very long time and many other departments have followed suit.

According to Clasby, some of the most dangerous areas of Los Angeles are patrolled only by cameras.

Nicholas said the monitors will be in the Watch Commander’s Office and the Dispatch Center. (A Watch Commander is basically the boss of a shift.)

Nicholas said the cameras were not money-generating at all.

However, money from Measure BB, will be going into the camera network project.

Nicholas also said the project was part of the city’s Main Street Revitalization Project.

According to an official SBPD statement written by Clasby, the current camera locations are:

• The Police Department (911 Seal Beach Boulevard)

• City Hall

• Marina Center Park

• Firs Street Public Works Building

• San Gabriel River

• Bike Path / First Street Park

• Central / Main Street

• Police Substation / Lifeguard HQ

• North Side of Pier

• South Side of Pier

• Zero Tower

Future expected locations of the cameras:

• Public Works

• Public Works Utility Buildings

• Traffic Cameras on Seal Beach Boulevard and Westminster

• Bay Theater

• Chase Bank