Harbor District scraps security system

The Harbor Commission unanimously scrapped a $16,000 surveillance system purchased in 2004 at the Aug. 1, 2012 meeting.

The Half Moon Bay Review reported the following:

Pillar Point Harbor has experienced a rash of property crimes in recent months, but officials decided last week the area’s network of security cameras should be taken down and sold.

The $16,000 surveillance system was purchased in 2004 specifically to make the harbor a safer place, but San Mateo County Harbor District officials say the cameras failed years ago. A lack of maintenance and other problems left the four cameras inoperable, but the harbor manager left them mounted throughout the harbor based on the logic that criminals might think twice if they believed someone was watching them.

The purpose of the cameras was thrown into question last year after the crab boat “Tonita” sank in what some believed an act of sabotage. No one was arrested for the crime.

If the security cameras were working they could have caught the person responsible for the loss of his boat, said Tonita owner Chris Eatinger. He said the harbor district is drawing the wrong lesson from the incident and should fix the cameras.

“It would have been an open-and-shut case,” he said. “I’m discouraged to hear that they’re taking the cameras down. I think they ought to go the other way and fix them.”

The staff report also blames Santa Cruz-based Stagecoach Wireless, the vendor of the security system, for letting the cameras deteriorate and break down.

Still others say that blame is misplaced. Former San Mateo County Harbormaster Dan Temko, who originally recommended installing the cameras, said the security system worked perfectly until the harbor district severed its maintenance contract with Stagecoach Wireless. Harbor District General Manager Peter Grenell instead gave that job to the contract technician who handled its other information-technology work, and the cameras soon began malfunctioning, Temko said.

“I don’t know what Peter had against Stagecoach; the guy did a good job,” Temko said. “It was downhill ever since they left. The cameras would work, then they’d go down, and the service was not as good.”

Grenell was on vacation and could not be reached for comment.

Stagecoach owner Beat Naef said he began to suspect while working at Pillar Point Harbor that district officials were playing favorites with their own contract technicians. He believes he was ousted after the other, unnamed, IT firm began “playing dirty tricks” by not sharing their remote access logins and badmouthing him behind his back.

“Their consultant was only interested in pushing me out of the business,” Naef said. “They felt like I was stepping on their toes and there was animosity on top of that.”

After his service contract ended, Naef said he received occasional calls from the harbor district’s IT contractor asking for support on how his camera system worked. He refused to help.

The cameras began to fail about two years after they were first installed. The harbor district now plans to sell the cameras to recoup as much as possible.

Naef estimated the cameras would fetch no more than $100 each.

By Mark Noack | Thursday, August 16, 2012