blog home Criminal Defense New Smart Streetlights Aid Law Enforcement in San Diego

New Smart Streetlights Aid Law Enforcement in San Diego

By San Diego Attorney on October 31, 2019

In 2018, the City of San Diego began a smart streetlight initiative with the intention of providing law enforcement with tools to better monitor the streets of America’s Finest City.
These state-of-the-art streetlights are equipped with energy-saving LED lights, microphones, cameras, and sensors that can detect gunshots, detect open parking spaces, and even measure air quality and the traffic flow of both vehicles and pedestrians.
While a Los Angeles Times report on the rollout of these lights stated that it is unclear what the collected sensor data will ultimately be used for, these lights are making waves in criminal investigations. Specifically, video evidence taken from the 3,200 new cameras has proven useful.

How Are These Smart Streetlights Being Implemented?

The first time evidence from a smart streetlight was used in a case was in the summer of 2018. A violent fight broke out and resulted in one person losing his life. While the incident was initially considered a murder investigation, video evidence exonerated the suspect in question. When law enforcement watched the streetlight video, it became clear that the suspect acted in self-defense and the charges were dropped.
Since that initial case, video from smart streetlights has been used in more than 140 police investigations, and that number is only going to grow. Law enforcement officials have been open about how useful these cameras have become and stated that they view smart streetlight footage as frequently as twenty times a month.

Ethical Concerns

While these cameras have proven useful in criminal cases, either by providing evidence to support criminal charges or to exonerate suspects, the new surveillance system has also been criticized for not being adequately regulated and its potential to violate privacy. Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have vocally addressed concerns of rights violations resulting from these smart streetlights. They argue for the need for “meaningful oversight” and accountability measures for police use of streetlamp camera footage.
Matt Cagle of the ACLU stated, “Decisions about how to use surveillance technology should not be made unilaterally by law enforcement or another city agency.”
At the time of this writing, about 100 law enforcement investigators in the sex crimes, robbery, traffic, internal affairs, and homicide units have direct access to video footage collected by these smart streetlights. Policy within the San Diego Police Department states that video footage should only be reviewed in connection with violent crimes, and that any officers outside of units dealing in violent crime can only access the footage if it is approved by a “designated authority.”
These new smart streetlights are an interesting foil in criminal investigations in San Diego. They can serve both law enforcement in seeking prosecutions and help exonerate innocent suspects who are charged with crimes they did not commit. While there are still questions on how to use these surveillance devices in an ethical manner, they have been useful for both criminal prosecution as well as defense.

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Since 1990, jD LAW, P.C., has been providing first-class criminal defense to the good people of San Diego. Do not let a misunderstanding or case of mistaken identity harm your reputation and take away your freedom. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, do not delay! Contact our San Diego criminal defense lawyers at (760) 630-2000 and let us fight for you.

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A note from James N. Dicks:

Although COVID-19 has caused great uncertainty, we want to assure that our firm is operating remotely to accommodate all current, past, and future clients in need of any of our services. The best way to communicate with us is by telephone (760) 630-2000 or email info@jdlaw.law.

Currently San Diego Superior Courts are closed but are set to reopen on Tuesday May 26th, 2020 barring any
future orders.

Do not hesitate to contact us with any questions. Sending our thoughts and best wishes to you and your family. Please follow us on Facebook for any future updates.


Aunque COVID-19 ha causado una gran incertidumbre, queremos asegurarles que nuestra oficina esta operando de forma remota para todos los clientes actuales, pasados y futuros que necesiten alguno de nuestros servicios. La mejor manera de comunicarse con nosotros es por teléfono (760) 630-2000 o por correo electrónico a info@jdlaw.law.

Los Tribunales Superiores de San Diego están cerrados, pero están programados para reabrir el martes 26 de mayo de 2020, salvo una nueva orden.

No dude en contactarnos si tiene alguna pregunta. Estamos enviando nuestros pensamientos y mejores deseos para usted y su familia. Síganos en Facebook para seguir siendo informado de novedades nuevas.


James N. Dicks
jD LAW, P.C.

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COVID-19 Announcement

Although COVID-19 has caused great uncertainty, we want to assure that our firm is operating remotely to accommodate all current, past, and future clients in need of any of our services. The best way to communicate with us is by telephone (760) 630-2000 or email info@jdlaw.law. Do not hesitate to contact us with any questions. Sending our thoughts and best wishes to you and your family.


Aunque COVID-19 ha causado una gran incertidumbre, queremos asegurarles que nuestra oficina esta operando de forma remota para todos los clientes actuales, pasados y futuros que necesiten alguno de nuestros servicios. La mejor manera de comunicarse con nosotros es por teléfono (760) 630-2000 o por correo electrónico a info@jdlaw.law. No dude en contactarnos si tiene alguna pregunta. Estamos enviando nuestros pensamientos y mejores deseos para usted y su familia.

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