Yesterday we mistakenly suggested that KFOX14 broke the story about the City’s planned installation of 300 security cameras through our City. We since learned that it was KVIA that broke the story on April 26, although it was very short, followed the next day by Buzz Adams of KLAQ. We regret the error.

After some research, we found that Police Commander Humberto Talamantes made a presentation to City Council on April 25 in which he stated that in the previous May, the City Council allocated $7 million for the “City Watch Expansion Project” from the federal government’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act. (We could not find the item in the City Council agendas of May 2022.)

We learned from Talamantes’ presentation that the plan calls for fixed security platforms, mobile security camera platforms, an unmanned aerial system, recording servers, and internet infrastructure.

Yes, there will not only be drone surveillance but 300 cameras will be installed at 44 sites, including senior citizen centers, entertainment districts, city parks and rec centers, sun metro locations, and public safety facilities.

Talamantes provided this map showing the planned location of the new equipment, which will be deployed from N. Mesa Street all the way to N. Zaragoza Rd.

The total cost of the new surveillance systems will be $210,000 annually, plus $3 million in replacement expenses over the next nine years.

Installation began last May and will be completed by October 24.

Talamante does not indicate who will have access to the data, how it will be stored and used, or whether there are any 4th Amendment issues regarding privacy.

Moreover, there was no explanation of the “Unmanned Aerial System” or how it will be deployed!

After his presentation there was no City Council vote, since apparently all of this had been approved by the previous City Council in 2022 (although again, I failed to find the agenda item).

Now that I know these details, we are even more concerned than we were before.

We think it would be a good idea if Commander Talamantes were called back to City Council in order to answer more questions and we hope a City Council representative will take action.

Smile, El Paso, your government is watching you!

PHOTO CREDIT: Surveillance cameras in China, WSJ (2 Sep 2022)