California Dreamin’ (Without Highway Shooters)
July 6, 2016 (Fault Lines) — Driving home on the I-80 freeway in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties in Northern California can be a risky endeavor. Since November of 2015, there have been more than 25 shootings on this stretch of Interstate and nearby Hwy 4; four of which resulted in fatalities.
Calls for surveillance cameras along these highways have been unanimous from locals. A few arrests have been made but the shootings have continued among speculation that there may be a serial shooter.
For the most part, police have attributed it to gang activity, but that doesn’t explain attacks on families with toddlers and the seemingly random nature of the attacks. For the past six months, it has become increasingly common to have traffic backups due to police activity in the aftermath of a shooting. Local Driver Ana Miranda says:
You’re afraid to be out anytime. It could happen during daytime, nighttime — it’s very dangerous here.
Local municipalities are scrambling for money to get cameras installed and mayors of five east bay cities have asked Governor Jerry brown to fund them saying the shooting situation has reached “crisis proportions.”
But how much good will these cameras do? Currently Cal Trans, the state Freeway management agency, has a number of cameras along these stretches of road, but they are live feeds for traffic management only. These cameras are mounted on very tall poles, not exactly close enough to the road so as to get an overall picture. Connecting recorders to them would not be effective.
The shootings are likely not emanating from the shooters in personal cars as are seen in many road rage incidents. Ditching the car after a shooting is easy and the individuals can easily vanish.
Cameras that can capture the kind of detail needed to recognize more than just make, model and license number; such as facial features and clothing in the dark interior of a vehicle, even if placed right next to the freeway, will be extremely expensive and require a standalone infrastructure.
Conrad Dandridge a management program analyst with the U.S. Dept of Homeland Security in Oakland and a candidate in the Contra Costa Supervisors race in District 5 told the East bay times in a phone interview that camera technology is not advanced enough to provide sufficient evidence to be used in court. His solution involves more money for police and diversion programs to keep kids from joining gangs.
He’s right; but the diversion programs take a while to bear fruit and people are getting shot at now. In the meantime, any funding the Mayors of Hercules, Richmond, San Pablo, Pinole and El Cerrito should ask for would be better spent on increasing more unmarked highway patrol units along that corridor and a program of local police taking sporadic incursions onto the freeways and keeping the off ramps covered.