Aug 052017
 

With a nod to Terminator’s self-aware computer network, the Solano County Sheriff in Northern California has applied for and received partial funding for Project Skynet, a network of surveillance cameras and automated license plate readers (ALPRs). Project Skynet would install 160 ALPRs and 124 surveillance cameras at 66 locations throughout Solano County. In its response to a request for public records, Daniel Wolk, Deputy County Counsel for Solano County noted, “this is at the proposal stage and specifics, including camera locations, have not been decided upon.”

Map of Phase I Camera/ALPR Locations

Map of Phase I Camera/ALPR Locations

Like the ring of stationary ALPRs around the City of Piedmont, the goal of the project is to capture images and video of all vehicles entering and exiting Solano County. According to a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation prepared by the Solano County Sheriff’s Office, the surveillance cameras would be capable of pan-tilt-zoom and data from the ALPRs and cameras would allow “real time information or years of past history.” The UASI grant application states, “In addition to the direct connection this project has with observing and locating terrorists, it also allows law enforcement to monitor human trafficking. I-80 is a major artery for drugs and human trafficking which are major funding sources for terrorism, from the west coast to the east.”

As with all grant applications to the Urban Areas Security Initiative, the project must have a nexus to terrorism. In its proposal for a Homeland Security Grant, the Solano County Sheriff writes, “We will be able to…locate persons and vehicles associated with terrorist threats, disrupt terrorist financing…” However, given that terrorism is extremely rare, this surveillance network is more likely to be used against pedestrian suspected criminal activity.

The PowerPoint document states, “There are 36 (666) locations, many of which are large freeways and near impossible to watch at once.” “666” is a police code for a county-wide emergency or be-on-the-lookout (BOLO). However, the grant application and approval documents cite 35 locations.

On July 13, 2017, the Bay Area Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) Approval Authority approved funding of $104,590 towards the $2 million total cost of Project Skynet.

Bay Area UASI Approval slide

The estimated $2 million cost for Project Skynet is broken down into phases with an estimated cost of $535,000 for Phase I, $568,000 for Phase II, and $895,000 for Phase III. Data from the ALPRs would be stored at the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC), the local joint fusion center that shares license plate reader data with dozens of local, state, and federal agencies.

The NCRIC stores license plate reader data for dozens of local law enforcement agencies and as of April 2015, stored 46.5 million records, which includes license plates and photographs of vehicles, including the occupants and surrounding area with geolocation data.

Oct 252016
 

Harris Corporation demonstrated its CorvusEye aerial surveillance system at the annual Urban Shield event organized by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office in 2015. The aerial surveillance system was used as part of a water supply sabotage scenario at Dunsmuir Reservoir in Oakland.

The CorvusEye aerial surveillance system was developed by defense contractor Exelis, which Harris Corp. purchased in 2015. According to Harris’ web site, CorvusEye can provide continuous monitoring and tracking over a 2.7 square mile (7 square km) are during the day and 1.2 square miles (3.1 square km) at night.

Harris’ CorvusEye is a competitor to the system marketed by Persistent Surveillance Systems, which has been used to secretly monitor Baltimore and Compton, in Los Angeles County.

The surveillance footage provided by Harris Corp. to Urban Shield included Dunsmuir Reservoir, Interstate 580, Dunsmuir House and residential areas of Oakland and Sheffield Village. In an email dated September 9, 2015, a Harris Corporation marketing manager describes the video as “a live view of the reservoir showing 5 terrorists moving around on the reservoir.”

Harris CorvusEye

Click here for the video provided by Harris Corporation.

Harris also made a pitch for providing security for Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium:

Obviously, our team is interested in having CorvusEye help out with Super Bowl security. We’d love to sit down with him and his team to demo the footage we captured last month…is there any way you can make an introduction for us and perhaps set up quick 10-15 minute meeting to introduce him to CorvusEye?

A lieutenant from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office responded with an offer of help:

I will do whatever I can to get you guys into the presentation on the Super Bowl. The folks from Santa Clara and Levi stadium will be at the VIP dinner Friday night. I will be there as well. Although I have not met these folks myself, let’s team up and track them down for a conversation! I have your back!

The details of how the CorvusEye surveillance systems works are explained in this video, produced by Exelis:

The annual Urban Shield event is an opportunity to introduce weapons, technology, and products developed for military and intelligence application to local law enforcement agencies.

Source material: Emails between Harris Corporation and Alameda County Sheriff’s Office

 

Sep 052016
 

Half of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office’s 10 surveillance cameras have been installed on private property, including gas stations, a liquor store, and a pharmacy. The cameras are directed toward the street and intersections and do not appear to be intended to provide surveillance of the private property where they are installed.

The first two surveillance cameras were installed on the Walgreens building located at 15850 E 14th Street in unincorporated San Leandro. Five more surveillance cameras were installed later in 2007, including one overlooking the Lighthouse Worship Center, one at a 7-11, and one between two houses on Elgin Way. In 2015, surveillance cameras were installed at a 76 gas station in San Lorenzo, a Chevron station in Castro Valley, and Hank’s Liquor in Hayward.

The first two surveillance cameras were purchased with asset forfeiture funds in 2006 or 2007. In a September 15, 2006, memo from Lt. Brian Ballard to Alameda County Sheriff Charles Plummer, Ballard wrote, “Covert surveillance cameras can be deployed in the community to monitor high crime areas and aid in the apprehension and capture of criminals. Up to eight units may be deployed throughout the Law Enforcement Services Division based on need. Estimated unit cost is approximately $20,000 each for the Deluxe Model with an upgraded storage capacity to forty eight hours. Total cost for eight units is $160,000.” Despite the mention of eight surveillance cameras, it appears that only two were installed using the asset forfeiture funds.

A November 20, 2006 letter from Sheriff Plummer to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors stated, “One item is a covert surveillance camera that can be deployed ‘in the community to monitor high crime areas and aid in the apprehension and capture of criminals. A well planned and placed surveillance system can help stop criminals in their tracks.”

Debbie Schenkhuizen of Walgreens approved the installation of the two surveillance cameras in an email dated August 13, 2007 to Sgt. Joe Bricker of the Eden Township Substation of the Alameda County Sheriff’s office with the subject “E 14th Street Camera Project” stating, “This proposal sounds good and I have been given the green light to move forward with you on this.”

Five more cameras were installed in 2007.

In early 2014, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office discovered that five of the seven cameras were not working. Alameda County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Gaitan wrote in a Nov. 13, 2014 memo, “The current system was installed approximately ten years ago and current has NO technical support.” All seven cameras were replaced by Axis Q6044-E PTZ 720p cameras with 30x optical zoom at a cost of $66,483.23.

According to an October 7, 2015, email from Lt. Michael Toms to Assistant Sheriff Brett Keteles, “There are signs placed at all locations notifying the public that they are entering an area with surveillance cameras. The cameras record but aren’t monitored. Typically when something happens we review the recording at a later time. If a supervisor is at ETS they have the ability to access the cameras to watch a live view of activity being recorded. Access is password protected. The recordings are kept for seven (7) days and then are self-purged by the system. If we want to keep a recoding [sic] we have to transfer it to a DVD.” No signs notifying the public about video surveillance were observed at any of the surveillance camera locations.

The three most recent surveillance cameras are also Axis Q6044-E PTZ 720p cameras with 30x optical zoom. They were purchased from Tactical Video of Naperville, Illinois, in November 2015 for $28,379.23 as part of a no-bid sole source contract. Tactical Video’s tagline on its website is “Poweful Video Surveillance Systems.”

Three of the cameras captured portions of the Alameda County Sheriff’s pursuit of Stanislav Petrov from a Castro Valley motel to a San Francisco alley in November 2015.

When asked for a copy of any policies for video surveillance, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office provided General Order 5.24, entitled “Collection, Preservation of Evidence/Property, Processing, Storage and Inspection.” The policy refers to videotapes and labeling of video cassettes, but does not mention digital video recording or retention of video recordings that are not evidence.

The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office recently released an image from one of the surveillance cameras installed at Walgreens at 15850 E. 14th Avenue:

Credit: Alameda County Sheriff's Office Surveillance image of a Jeep Grand Cherokee authorities say may be connected to shootings of people in San Leandro with a pellet gun.

Credit: Alameda County Sheriff’s Office surveillance camera

Locations of the 10 surveillance cameras operated by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office:

159th Avenue near E. 14th (Walgreens), San Leandro

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15850 E. 14th Avenue near 159th Avenue (Walgreens), San Leandro

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NW corner of Coelho Drive and Mooney Avenue, San Lorenzo

coehlo1_small Alameda County Sheriff surveillance camera at Coehlo and Mooney

16058 Ashland Avenue, San Lorenzo

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16320 Elgin Way (near Ashland Avenue), San Lorenzo

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159th Avenue and Liberty Avenue, San Leandro

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A Street and Princeton Street, Hayward

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18501 Hesperian Boulevard at Bockman Road (76 gas station), San Lorenzo

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19989 Meekland Avenue at Blossom Way (Hank’s Liquor), Hayward

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3495 Castro Valley Boulevard at Redwood Road (Chevron gas station), Castro Valley

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