Hundreds of South San Jose residents offered free home security cameras

A nonprofit is helping provide hundreds of homeowners in South San Jose with free private security cameras.

More than 100 people were at Monday’s community meeting to learn about the program. The mayor and the police chief touted it as a way to deter crime and to make it easier to convict criminals.

Dina Garcia Gonzales’s car was broken into not once but twice and the last attempt was last week. The culprits not only broke the ignition, but the inside roof of her car and seats are vandalized. She doesn't have security cameras but wishes she did now.

“You think you are safe but to know people are out there taking advantage,” said Gonzales. “I don't know if it's just the nice neighborhood. I don't know what it is.”

She’s among 100 people who showed up at a community meeting Monday, eager to learn about a new opportunity to get a home security camera for free.

“A project like ours will make it a lot easier for the police department because as you know with Bambi Larson,” said Issa Ajlouny of Safer San Jose. “Police spent hours going door to door looking for camera footage.”

“Had it not been for the surveillance cameras,” said San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia. “I don't know if we would have apprehended the suspect as quickly as we did.”

Homicide victim Bambi Larson lived a few miles away from Ajlouny. Several years ago, he fought Calpine Power to install air quality monitors. It never happened, but Calpine ended up settling with the city for $1 million and $600,000 will now go toward cameras.

“The Bay Area Air Quality Management District monitors the air quality,” said Ajlouny. “We thought we will take the money and make something else safe and that's making people feel safer at home.”

300 cameras are now being offered to people living in neighborhoods near the power plant off Metcalfe Road. The police department's online camera registry program is voluntary. For people getting free cameras, that program would be mandatory.

“This is about making sure the police know where the cameras are so they can reach out to homeowners or business owners who can voluntarily turn over video footage if they chose too,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. 

The nonprofit's president sees this as a pilot program and hopes it takes off in other parts of the city. The nonprofit is in the process of a choosing a vendor. It hopes to have the cameras installed within a year.