RANCHO CUCAMONGA - Members of Libertarian and Tea Party groups in the region have objected to city police plans to install public surveillance cameras around Victoria Gardens.

The plan by the Rancho Cucamonga Police Department is an effort to help deter crime and to focus law enforcement eyes on areas where criminal behavior may be occurring after a 911 call is made.

"It's `Big Brother' and the fact that they're taking federal grant money when our federal government is broke, and we're contributing to the problem by taking federal funds to implement this camera program," said Jeane Ensley, an organizer for the Inland Valley Patriots, a local chapter of the Tea Party.

"It's an invasion of privacy."

Rancho Cucamonga resident and past City Council candidate Anthony Rice, is also among those opposed to public surveillance cameras.

"My main concern is the trampling of our constitutional Fourth Amendment right to be secure in our person and our property," he said. "I'm against any type of government surveillance."

Rice, and others who spoke out against the public cameras voiced concern over federal government control over local government issues, with "strings attached" to federal funds used for such programs.

"If you're being watched all the time, that's not being secure in our person," Rice said.

"As a Libertarian, I like my right to privacy and the right to privacy is one of the basic founding principles of this country."

Jillian Ensley, a Rancho Cucamonga resident and vice chair of the San Bernardino County Libertarians, also took issue with the use of federal funds for the cameras.

"Anytime a public agency is taking a federal grant, there are strings attached," Ensley said. "There is an expectation that we need to do something for the federal government and the federal government has no business in our lives."

The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, which serves Rancho Cucamonga as its police service, will install about 20 cameras for the first phase. Plans are to expand the number to other areas as funds become available. The cameras will be placed in public areas near intersections around the major shopping center.

"We do have crime around there," said Rancho Cucamonga Police Chief Mike Newcombe. "We do have vehicle burglaries and sometimes crimes are committed in the stores. We think the cameras will help us apprehend those people that commit crime in those areas."

The plan calls the cameras a "force multiplier" for the department, and officials said it would be no different than if an officer on the street were watching a public area.

"If there is suspicious activity that might be observed through the cameras, officers know what's happening and where to go, and that's a distinctive advantage," said Councilman Bill Alexander. "It's not a spy in the sky at all."

At the recent City Council meeting, opponents of the project objected during public comment on the basis of privacy concerns and that federal grant funds were used for the project.

A federal grant will cover the cost of the first phase of the project, Newcombe said. The surveillance camera company Leverage, which has a regional office in Ontario, is the vendor for the project.

Leverage also has contracts with Santa Monica, South Gate, Gardena, Compton, and Redlands.

In Redlands, public surveillance cameras were able to help police in a homicide investigation and prosecution.


Reach Neil via email, call him at 909-483-9356, or find him on Twitter @InlandGov.