Deputizing Security Cameras

Posted on: 29 May 2014


These days, it's practically impossible to watch the nightly news without seeing at least one story that includes serendipitous security camera footage. Events recorded by chance range from the heartwarming and amusing, such as an enraged cat chasing off a dog who's about to attack his young owner, to the darkly chilling sight of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects leaving a convenient store. In these and countless other instances surveillance cameras that have been set up for a particular purpose, to keep an eye on a particular piece of property, end up serving as "witnesses" whose testimony can help to identify a suspect or serve as evidence in a civil proceeding. Police and prosecutors have recognized their value for years. But a growing number of cities are taking a new pro-active approach, one that depends on the knowledge that a camera is present and on duty, should a crime occur within its sight. Two municipalities, in particular, are taking very different means in search of the same end, one seeking volunteers, the other, mandating it as law. San Jose, California The San Jose City Council is considering asking citizens who have installed security cameras on their property to voluntarily register them with the San Jose Police Department to be included in a database. The proposal is the brainchild of Councilman Sam Liccardo, a candidate for mayor who sees it as means to stemming the rising incidence of crime in what was formerly considered one of the nation' safest cities. He cited how police were able to locate a suspect who'd been on a month long arson spree in his district, only after a resident voluntarily handed over incriminating video captured by his surveillance cameras. According to the San Jose Mercury News, citizens would voluntarily sign to be listed in a database of cameras and locations. With such a database in place, officers responding to a crime in an area could immediately access it to find a map of nearby camera locations. Liccardo pointed out how it would cut down on wasted time exemplified by the arson case where police had to go knocking on doors to locate cameras. Now, with the advance permission of property owners, they would have immediate access to footage that would speed up apprehensions. White Plains, New York White Plains, the county seat of Westchester County just north of New York City, is not only on the opposite coast, it is taking an opposite approach. Rather than homeowners, they are turning to merchants, and rather than asking the help of their security cameras, they are mandating it - whether the businesses already have security cameras or not. White Plains' previously decaying downtown business district, had always been plagued by burglaries, but recent gentrification brought a new focus to the problem. To address crime head-on, the Common Council this year passed a resolution requiring certain types of businesses to install digital cameras and record everyone coming onto the premises, and to make the video available to the White Plains Police Department should they request it to investigate a crime. The law applies to:

  • pharmacies
  • pawn shops
  • second hand precious metal dealers
  • businesses selling alcohol
  • check-cashing establishments
  • businesses open between midnight and 4 A.M.
The law takes effect in February 2015, and will cost the 250 businesses involved $1,000 to $2,500 per camera system. A Growing Trend Both cases brought forth the usual privacy concerns as well as some distaste for what is seen as government privatizing surveillance. However officials in both cities maintain deputizing cameras is a way to speed up the forensic process. Echoing the sentiment of San Jose's Liccardo, WPPD Chief James Bradley is quoted in USA Today as saying video is "a growing trend in our profession. It has helped us solve a number of high-profile crimes more quickly.... When a case is in court, juries demand DNA and video.” Laws pertaining to police access to surveillance video are in effect in cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, San Francisco, and NYC. While security camera installation is still up to the individual in places like Fayetteville, North Carolina, more and more property owners look to cameras for peace of mind. For more information on security camera installation in Fayetteville, visit Taylored Control Systems.