Hayward officials extended a $75,000 pilot program for a surveillance robot that has roamed a parking garage across the street from City Hall for the past year. But while Hayward city staff argued the white, bullet-shaped robot had successfully decreased crime in the area, it also did not yield a single citation or prosecution.
The extension of the pilot program approved by the council does not expand its scope, but includes exterior coverage of the new library next door to the parking garage on Watkins Street.
The surveillance robot manufactured by Knightscope, a tech company based in Mountain View, includes the ability to capture 360-degree high-definition video, thermal imaging, the ability to track mobile devices in the area, along with an Automated License Plate Reader.
Data is only accessible by Hayward officials and retained for 14 days and deleted afterwards, said Adam Kostrzak, the city’s director of information technology.
The city’s intent in extending the pilot program is to continue compiling data in order to decide future expansion, Kostrzak said, but he added, “There is no intention at this time to expand.”
A city staff report suggested the surveillance robot had successfully reduced crime in the specific area. In the 10 months prior to the introduction of the surveillance to robot to the downtown parking garage, there was nine instances of theft, according to city staff, as opposed to three in the past year.
“While there are multiple factors that can contribute to a decrease in reports of crime, these statistics showcase the impact of this specific tool as a solution to deter crimes of theft,” according to the staff report.
Councilmember Aisha Wahab, who pulled the contract extension from the consent portion of Tuesday night’s agenda, and voted against the item, pressed city staff for the number of times the surveillance robot led law enforcement to issue citations for misconduct or arrests.
“I would say zero, at this time,” Kostrzak told Wahab. “The intent of this robot is to make its presence known and make people aware that we are looking to protect this garage.”
“It’s really a deterrent versus an enforcement tool, at this point, and we have used it as such,” Hayward City Manager Kelly McAdoo added.
In response to concerns by some about the slow creep of surveillance cameras in Hayward, Councilemember Al Mendall assuaged those fears, saying data from the surveillance robot will better inform the council for how to act on the issue in the future.
“It’s building our knowledge. It’s giving us a sense of what the questions are that we need answered. It’s giving us a sense of the kind of conversations we need to have with our community before we decide, ‘Alright, do we want to go farther? Do we want to stop this?'” Mendall said. “We’re not quite there yet.”
Councilmember Francisco Zermeno was more clear in his support of the technology, predicting surveillance in public spaces is likely to increase in Hayward. “I do believe in it,” Zermeno said. “Of course, we will have more and have it controlled to a degree.