An Arizona City Government Sneaks In Spy Grid

A spy grid of cactus-disguised license-plate-reading cameras was imposed on a city without residents’ knowledge.

Do you think anyone would vote city officials into power if they thought that they would use city funds to arrange a spy grid of surveillance cameras?

Paradise Valley, Arizona, has given us an answer to that question. They installed video cameras hidden in fake cactus plants. It seems they thought that the voters might not like it.

Obviously, the actual installations could not be entirely secret. A few motorists saw the fake plants being worked on and realized they were not natural.

[See also, “Cities Sue Their own Residents over Red Light Cameras.”]

But watch this report from Fox 10 in Phoenix and notice how completely secretive the police and the town government were about what the cameras are for.

FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

FOX 10 asked Paradise Valley Police about the cameras, but they said they were not prepared to make a statement at this time. At City Hall people were also hesitant to talk with FOX 10 about the cameras, saying they wanted to wait until all the cameras were installed, but eventually the Town Manager answered some of the questions.

“The town is embarking on the installation of license plate readers,” said Kevin Burke, Paradise Valley Town Manager.

Burke says the cameras run license plates of cars against a hot list database. If the car is stolen, or the subject of an amber alert, the police will be notified.

FOX 10 did a story in February about the same technology being installed on traffic lights, the city also declined to talk publicly then too.

So why is the city not being public about this? 

“Again, not trying to hide anything, the police department, this was my request of before we get going at these one at a time, lets get them all together and make sure we understand and everybody is on the same page,” he said.

Burke said the cameras are not active at this point.

“We want to make sure we’re answering everybody’s questions about data retention, how the things will be used, we want to make sure that is vetted before we turn these things up,” said Burke.

Some would say they should have been vetted before they went up.

You think?

What I find hardest to believe is that these cameras do not have a revenue-raising purpose. Otherwise, how can they afford them?

Which raises the question in my mind: Are these camera’s financed by a grant from somewhere else? Are they an experiment to see how a town reacts to a spy grid rollout?