In early May, the Hollister City Council voted for video cameras to be installed in the downtown Hollister. Because of criminal activity at past motorcycle rallies, $300,000-plus over-budget costs for downtown event police security, and a multitude of public requests, Hollister Chief of Police David Westrick agreed with the camera installation and said he views it as a way to “plan for the city’s future.”
Approximately 40 cameras are expected to be mounted by the third week of June, utilizing the following week as a trial run in preparation for the Hollister Biker Rally that is scheduled for the Fourth of July weekend. The installations will occur on buildings throughout downtown, including at the Briggs Building parking structure, Fire Station No. 1 on Fifth Street, the Veterans Memorial Building on San Benito Street, Old City Hall on Fifth Street, and every right-of-way street. The cost of the camera installation is approximately $352,000, which Westrick views as an investment that will be returned within the coming year.
Westrick explained that the cameras will be a boon to community safety, as well as the economy. By hiring trained special event police to watch security surveillance during downtown functions like the Biker Rally, it will aid Hollister police in monitoring each gathering by allowing them to respond quickly to any dangerous or illegal activity spotted on camera. Officials say that because of the cameras, any downtown event will be monitored more closely and efficiently, cutting down police expenses per event by at least a third, because not as many police will be needed on the ground to work the event due to the cameras’ birds eye views.
Westrick added that community members should feel safer downtown, and more may want to open businesses in the historic area. He also believes a safer downtown will invigorate the consumer culture of the area, and the community’s spending and patronizing of downtown shops and restaurants will increase.
When asked how Westrick and city officials will deal with concerns about invasion of privacy due to the cameras’ installation, the chief confidently stated that, “We have received enormous support for this safety movement. We are cognizant of civil liberty issues and we do not intend to infringe upon those rights.”
Hollister Downtown Association Executive Director Brenda Weatherly, while not expressing an official opinion on her group’s behalf, said she personally supports the cameras as a means to keep the downtown area safe.
City Manager William Avera said that while the cameras will be closely monitored by police during the biker rally, “for the most part, they won’t be monitored” unless there is a large event downtown. “It’s probably not going to be a whole lot different than a security camera on a home,” from which footage is checked if there was an incident worth reporting to police.