Contra Costa eyes highway cameras to deter crime

ANTIOCH (BCN) -- Contra Costa County officials hope that by this summer a project will be underway to help law enforcement deter or capture people responsible for a series of shootings on two area roads, an official said today.

The project would put video cameras, shot spotter technology and license plate readers on Interstate Highway 80 and state Highway 4 from Cutting Boulevard in Richmond to Antioch, Senior Deputy District Attorney Mary Knox said.

A disproportionate number of shootings on Bay Area freeways have occurred in central and western Contra Costa County, with 36 since 2015.

Eight people have died in the shootings.

Officials with the California Highway Patrol said in March that there had been 111 highway shootings in the Bay Area since the start of 2015.

Two more people were shot Sunday night on a southbound Interstate Highway 880 off-ramp in Hayward.

Just after 9 p.m., California Highway Patrol officers were told of some shots being fired on the Winton Avenue off-ramp from Highway 880, according to the CHP.

Officers found that a Toyota Tacoma was exiting Highway 880 on the eastbound Winton Avenue off-ramp when a vehicle pulled up next to the Toyota and fired a gun at the people inside.

Bullets hit the legs of two of the three people in the truck. Following the shooting, the Toyota veered off the off-ramp and into an area south of it.

"This does not appear to be a random freeway shooting," CHP Officer Jonathan Fransen said. "The victims in this shooting appear to have been targeted in a gang-related attack."

Fransen, however, said that it's too early in the investigation to tell whether the shooting is related to other recent East Bay freeway shootings.

The freeway project, which county and state leaders have said the money is available for, could cost as much as $1.5 million. The funds have been approved and will come from Caltrans, Melissa Figueroa, spokeswoman for the California State Transportation Agency, said.

The agency consists of other agencies such as Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol and the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The cameras to be installed will be able to move in the direction of the sound of a gun or guns and zoom in on the shooter's vehicle.

"We will have eyes on the freeway within seconds of the shooting," Knox said.

A task force commander will be able to see live video of the freeway. Also, the system will be able to send video or photos to nearby officers in their cars.

Knox said she has not heard of any privacy concerns related to the project.

No one at either the American Civil Liberties Union or the Electronic Frontier Foundation was immediately available to comment.

The data will be stored by law enforcement and only accessible by law enforcement.

A working group has been working on a proposal for the project for the last year or so. The last details of the proposal are expected to be finalized in the next two to three weeks, Figueroa said.