El Granada residents should beware of inappropriate use of "Homeland Security" video surveillance by Harbormaster Scott Grindy.
Friday, May 22, 2009 at 3:41pm
EVERETT, Wash. —
When golf balls began pelting the Port of Everett's shipping terminal, security officers trained their anti-terrorism cameras on the nearby hillside neighbors, hoping to catch the mystery duffers.
But after residents complained of being spied on, port officials turned the surveillance cameras around. Nevertheless, the barrage of balls has ended.
"In hindsight, we realize the golf balls are a public safety issue, not a threat to the terminals in terms of somebody breaking in," port security director Scott Grindy told The Herald of Everett. "Aiming at the hillside probably wasn't an appropriate use."
Police reports were filed and the video cameras were trained on Rucker Hill after dozens of golf balls landed on the port property in recent weeks, which Grindy said endangered workers and equipment.
The cameras, obtained with some of the more than $2.3 million in federal Homeland Security money for the port, never spotted any balls being hit, and the effort will not be resumed, Grindy told The Associated Press on Friday.
"We've decided to keep our cameras on our perimeter and security fence," he said.
Residents who learned about the surveillance from an article published by The Herald newspaper on May 16 were upset they were being watched.
"If they have the ability to tape my house, there should be a written policy to determine who can see these tapes and how they are used," Dave Miller, whose bedroom window faces the port, told the Everett paper.
Charlene Rawson, chairwoman of the Port Gardner Neighborhood Association, which includes Rucker Hill and the port's terminals, arranged a meeting with port Executive Director John Mohr.
"We had a nice conversation about it," said Rawson, who initially said she believed the port's actions violated people's privacy. "The port said they don't have the cameras pointed at any particular house."
There's no way for the public to determine exactly what the cameras recorded. Port officials said they cannot share video footage because of Homeland Security rules, not can they disclose the location of cameras or answer whether they can pan or zoom.
Grindy said port officials are now working on a surveillance policy.
The only reported damage from the wayward balls was a broken window in a vacant pickup truck two weeks ago. But Grindy said near misses were reported by crews on Amtrak passenger trains, Sounder commuter rail and Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight trains.
Golfers apparently were practicing at the top of the hill in an area where the port terminals, railroad tracks and a public footpath cannot be seen, he said.
"I think the whole issue is that an avid golfer is not realizing that there's all this stuff below," he said.