Police around the country are wanting to turn home and business private security cameras into surveillance devices to monitor activity on streets and other public places.
New technology can give cops instant access to video from homes and businesses.
The goal, cops say, is to make it easier to catch criminals, although there are plenty of privacy groups who say the idea is a bad one.
“Because if we do get [criminals] on video, then we are going to put it out to the world that we now have your photograph and that we are looking for you,” Geneva Bosques of the Freemont Police Department in the San Francisco area told KPIX.
Freemont is one of several Bay Area cities asking businesses and homeowners to register security cameras, KPIX reported. The registration gives police the ability to take video off of the cameras in real time.
Nearly 300 homeowners have registered their cameras, and multiple neighborhoods are taking part.
“Well, it is really helpful for us in the aftermath of a crime that has occurred,” Bosques said. “We can map them out, and then we can try to determine whether any of these cameras might help us in our investigation.”
Other California communities rolling such programs out include San Jose, San Mateo and Vallejo. In the San Jose area, police say footage from a private residence helped capture a serial arsonist.
The programs are voluntary, but that hasn’t stopped the criticism of police departments launching massive databases of private camera footage.
“To me the really interesting and troublesome part of it is the way we are starting to privatize government surveillance — to enlist private citizens in a way that is kind of unprecedented and could be potentially really dangerous,” Hanni Fakhoury, a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the San Jose Mercury News. “Once you give the police unfettered access 24/7, you’re relying on them to exercise their restraint.”
California is not the only place where such technology is being implemented.
100 Cameras To Watch Downtown Grand Rapids?
Cops in Grand Rapids, Michigan, are trying to get businesses to register cameras in the city’s downtown area. Technology purchased with Homeland Security grants would give the city police department and the Kent County Sheriff’s department the ability to take control of security cameras from police dispatch centers, county emergency coordinator Jack Stewart told Michigan Live.
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“This is the same technology that helped catch the Boston Marathon bombers,” Stewart said. “This is not day-to-day monitoring. It’s just in the event of an emergency. There would have to be an event serious enough to trigger us to monitor the cameras.”
Police are using the technology in response to an increase in violent crime in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan Live reported. Stewart said the technology would be deployed in shooting incidents and in the investigation of violent crimes.
Police already have access to 100 cameras in downtown Grand Rapids, Stewart said. Non-disclosure agreements prevent police from naming the businesses participating in the program.
“We think it’s a good idea,” said Bruce Rossman of the company Spectrum Health. Spectrum is participating in the program. “Our people have been at the table since the beginning.”
The program only involves outdoor security cameras mounted on private buildings, Stewart said.
“I’m not aware of any plan to do surveillance on indoor cameras,” Stewart said.
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