The Lexington Department of Public safety honored an open records request and provided We See You Watching Lexington with footage from all four surveillance cameras installed at Berry Hill Skate Park. The video reveals the cameras do “look” at private property outside of the park.
The department released about two minutes of daytime footage from each camera, recorded Sunday, Aug. 20, at around 12:18 p.m. It also provided nighttime footage from each camera recorded Aug. 8 just before 2 a.m.
As you can see from the screen grabs, the cameras capture extremely sharp daytime images. At night, the quality degrades significantly.
With its high resolution, the daytime video remains sharp even when zoomed significantly. Even so, it was hard to make out faces. The monitoring system used by the Department of Public Safety may well afford greater zooming functionality with raw footage than we were able to obtain on home computers.
Most significantly, the footage reveals that the camera do “see” private property. The camera covering the skateboard bowl has a clear view into the back yards of homes along Buckhorn Drive.
Another camera angle picks up images from the neighboring shopping center.
The legal ramifications of government cameras constantly recording private homes remains unclear. Under current privacy laws, you don’t have a high expectation of privacy when outside, even in your own yard. We See You Watching Lexington has sent images from the cameras to an ACLU of Kentucky lawyer for further evaluation.
Regardless, the fact that the city can monitor private property around the clock is pretty creepy.
The ease of obtaining footage also raises concerns. It appears anybody filing an open records request can get video from the park cameras. We know from previous open records requests that the city has not established any written policies relating to the retention and sharing of footage from the cameras. The system overwrites data 30 days old, but as our open records request demonstrates, once somebody copies the footage, there exists no control over the images.
The footage we obtained would seem to indicate the system doesn’t work very well. Two of the four feeds froze and remained locked up throughout most of the video. We originally requested video during its rally on Aug. 6. The Department of Public Safety was not able to provide that footage due to “technical difficulties.”
On the bright side, the city did provide us with a pretty good bead on a wasp.