San Francisco mayor suggests police drones and CCTV can cure city's crime woes

Suggests bodycam footage should replace paperwork for simple arrests

San Francisco's mayor, London Breed, has proposed drone surveillance and cameras on public buildings to curb the city's crime problems.

In a ballot measure proposed on Tuesday, Breed said new techniques are needed to help police stop criminal behaviour that endangers the public.

“We need to give our officers the tools necessary to keep our communities safe and not leave them stuck behind a desk when they can be out on the street helping people,” Breed opined, giving the plan the three-word slogan “Safer San Francisco”'.

The plan is needed because “There has been too much focus on adding bureaucracy to the work our officers do and putting up barriers to new technologies that can help improve policing in San Francisco,” the Mayor added.

Breed's barrier-busting plan would see police given powers to use drones to track suspects or monitor for illegal activity. The mayoral masterplan also calls for deployment and monitoring of a network of CCTV cameras on public buildings to detect suspicious behaviour. Given San Francisco's City Hall and main public library are on the edge of the city's notoriously crime-ridden Tenderloin district, there should be plenty to see.

A change to regulation governing the use of body camera footage is another part of Breed’s plan. The Mayor wants arrests made without injury or an officer having to draw a firearm to be exempt from writer reports, with bodycam footage lone sufficing the document the incident. The goal of the measures is to cut paperwork to 20 percent of an officer's time, she said.

Another measure will mean officers in police cars will be given authority to chase after suspicious vehicles “so long as the pursuit can be done safely.” Breed said.

Breed’s plan is unusual for appealing directly to voters, a process that means her ideas require only a simple majority is needed for it to be enacted.

The alternative is to run it by San Francisco's Board of Supervisors, a body that last year approved a measure that would allow local police to arm robots. While one member of the eleven-person Board argued that "in extreme circumstances it is conceivable that use of a robot might be the best and only way of dealing with a terrorist or mass shooter", public outcry saw the plan shelved.

Breed appears to be looking to bypass that process, at a time when the concern over crime has been growing in the city. While violent crime is below average in Fog Town, property crime and retail theft are more common than other American metropolises - in this 14-year stretch in the city I’ve learned to never leave anything even remotely valuable in the car. ®

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