Seattle Mayor's proposal to surveil crime with CCTV & audio devices prompts heated debate about privacy

It's a technology proposal that's supposed to help the city of Seattle crack down on crime, but not everyone is happy about it. 

People gathered at a hearing to speak out about the potential surveillance program that would use three types of technology, including cameras, software and audio devices to stop crime in Seattle.

Seats were packed at the Bitter Lake Community Center as the majority of those at the meeting spoke against the proposal.

"SPD and Bruce Harrell are asking us to throw millions into invasive technology that does not keep people safe," said one speaker who is against the proposal.   

"These technologies are likely to target people of color and marginalized people," said another speaker.   

The proposal by Mayor Bruce Harrell to use three technologies, including closed circuit TV, Real Time Crime Center Software and acoustic gunshot detection technology called ShotSpotter, stirred the debate over privacy and public safety.  

It's called the "Technology Assisted Crime Prevention Pilot."  

"If we procure this software, we cannot control the data," said a speaker who opposed the proposal. 

"I have nothing to fear from technology that helps identify and apprehend and convict criminals. Why? I am not a criminal," said Brian DeLuca, a supporter of the technology proposal.   

A spokesperson for SoundThinking, the company behind ShotSpotter which utilizes audio sensors and AI filters to detect the sound of gunfire, explained why gunshot detection software was an important part of the proposal.   

"The quicker a first responder can get on the scene and render aid to a gunshot victim, the better the outcome," said Alfred Lewers Jr., SoundThinking senior director of trauma response and community engagement. "On average, less than 20% of the time, are they being notified of guns being fired." 

Opponents say this particular software has produced false positive results in other cities, like Chicago, where an unarmed child was reportedly shot at following a report of gunfire in the area. 

"AGLS (Acoustic Gunshot Location Systems) does not alert police to gun violence," said one opponent of the proposal.  "According to Chicago’s Cook County State Attorney’s Office, ShotSpotter technology is expensive and does not have a significant impact on shooting incidents."

Other critics argued against the use of CCTV in the proposal. 

"I do not want police or artificial intelligence systems to watch my family as we go about our lives," said one opponent at Monday's hearing. 

"Put that money back into the community and give it to folks to serve the community," said another opponent of the proposal. 

 However, supporters say something needs to be done to curtail crime.   

"I’m here to speak for the Black community, for the weeping mothers," said supporter Rev. Harriet G. Walden, the co-founder of Mothers for Police Accountability. 

Walden said she speaks for many of the moms who have lost children to gun violence. 

"Mothers have been calling for cameras in the high-profile area since 2014," said Walden. 

The 24-day comment period regarding the installation of the technology wraps up at the end of the month.