Government / Politics

Surveillance: At what price?

Gavilan College student Luis Burguillo decided to take on the topic of surveillance for a student video project. In this article, we share questions he posed and his interview with Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velazquez and Hollister Councilman Ray Friend.

The fact that the Hollister City Council recently made a decision to install surveillance cameras in downtown Hollister caught Gavilan College student Luis Burguillo’s eye. (See story Downtown Surveillance Cameras.) Burguillo was in need of a meaty topic for a school assignment and decided on this current issue. As an adult college student, Burguillo found himself face to face with local politicians in an interview with Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velazquez and Hollister City Council member, Ray Friend. The result is an in-depth conversation recorded at GAVTV in Gilroy on the Gavilan College campus. Burguillo also posted his story on You-Tube and shared it among friends by email. BenitoLink asked Burguillo permission to share his story on this website.

In the more than hour-long interview,  Burguillo questions the mayor on the cost of the new surveillance equipment planned for downtown. He asks the mayor to weigh the need for surveillance against other community needs. He also poses questions about the loss of privacy that may come with surveillance in these busy public areas. Burguillo quizzes Mayor Velazquez to see if the city looked into whether the community itself really wants cameras downtown. Velazquez stated in the interview that people were asked but he did not provide any specifics on how many people were asked or who they happened to be.

In an email to BenitoLink Advisory Committee member Leslie David, Burguillo explained some of the concerns he wanted to address by taking on this assignment, “The need and necessity for surveillance cameras, when crime statistics, both nationally and in particular Hollister, have been down for the pass (sic) 12 years, was a central question that apparently did not justify the expenditure of well over a quarter of a million dollars from the city’s general fund.” Burguillo pointed out in the interview that there are “other more prominent areas of need, such (as) restoring funding for after school programs and activities for San Benito High School and middle school students, San Benito Library and investing in economic development, to address the city’s 14% unemployment rate.”

Burguillo also questioned whether surveillance is appropriate for the downtown area in small communities like Hollister. He wrote to BenitoLink via email, “The surveillance of normal, non-criminal Hollister residents whose only criminal activity is to come and visit downtown and its businesses, seemed very family unfriendly and unwarranted. Moreover, the city certified expenditure will have a negligible positive economic impact in Hollister- other than helping the economy of Morgan Hill.”

(See Burguillo’s videotaped interview with Mayor Velazguez and City Council Member Ray Friend)

Below are some of the websites Burguillo used to research his surveillance coverage. Through his reporting on GavTV, Burguillo played off of the larger, national dialogue going on currently about the topic of surveillance.

Washington Journal Interview with Josh Gerstein, Politico 

Guardian Associated Press Interview with Edward Snowden


Leslie David

Leslie David is a Bay Area independent reporter/producer and is a BenitoLink founding board member. She has produced for radio, television, newspaper and magazines in both California and Wyoming. She was with KRON-TV News in San Francisco as camera-woman, editor and field producer, where she won the Commonwealth Club's Thomas Storke Award with Linda Yee for their series on the Aids Epidemic. She started as a small market news reporter shooting her own 16mm film at KEYT-TV Santa Barbara. Leslie lives on a ranch with her family in San Benito County.