Privately operated security cameras facing public streets and sidewalks could soon be installed in up to 10 Newport Beach neighborhoods as a part of a roughly year-long pilot program officials are testing out.

Last month, Newport Beach City Council members unanimously approved the program that will allow homeowner associations with at least 50 single family homes in contiguous neighborhoods to install cameras.

Jim Moser, a longtime local watchdog, said the move strikes him as “little big brotherish.”

“It gives our neighborhoods a less welcoming aspect than they would otherwise or currently have so I am not really enthusiastic about this idea,” he said.

Mayor Noah Blom said he would choose added security in the city over anything else.

“I’m pretty sure every single one of us holds a phone in our pocket at all times and so I think they’re listening and watching anyway,” he said in response to Moser.

The decision in Newport Beach came after Spyglass Hill Community Association, a local homeowner association, spearheaded the idea.

Harbor View Community Association, Newport Hills Community Association and Dover Shores Community Association have also expressed interest in the program.

And now the discussion has sparked a debate over the need for public safety and the concern of a surveillance state and infringing on privacy.

Councilman Brad Avery said at the June 27 meeting that he supports the program because residents want it and it would help police officers do their job if there are burglaries.

“As a society, we’re really giving up a lot of our right to privacy with so much of this surveillance and also with tracking of some boats out there with the GPS and as time goes on, they’ll just be more and more of it,” he said. 

“As we get more used to it, more accepting, I think everybody should think about that a little bit.”

The cameras have to be fixed in one direction – without being able to tilt, pan or zoom – and have to face the roadway, not a specific house. They won’t record audio, according to a staff report.

Participating homeowner associations will be responsible for the cost of installing, maintaining and operating the camera as well as pay encroachment fees to the city. They also have to agree to sharing statistical information with police to assess the program.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.


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