ABC News recently published an article about the increasing amount of crimes caught on private surveillance cameras, and police interest in connecting to these cameras. ABC writer Kevin Dolak lists a number of cases (New York, Philadelphia, Arizona), in which the suspects were identified in private surveillance videos, then arrested for their crimes.
(I’ve seen this myself here in Los Angeles with police requesting private homes volunteer to register that they have a surveillance system.)
In Philadelphia, police have started a program that catalogues private cameras with the police department. Businesses need only to register. If a crime happens in the vicinity of that business police have the opportunity to request a copy of the evidence. This catalogue is not only a list of supporting businesses, but a map of surveillance security cameras, paid for by private owners to protect themselves.
“Businesses are saying, ‘I have a camera at this location, and it may or may not be of use to you. It’s a registration to say, ‘feel free to call me,'” Sgt. Joseph Green told ABCNews.com.
The same is happening in Washington, D.C., where “police are trying to encourage businesses operating private surveillance cameras to quickly pull video footage following a crime in the area to help detectives.” The faster businesses save their footage of their DVRs the better – it’s likely to get deleted soon.
Dolak writes that businesses seem to be on board with idea of aiding police. In a poll of 850 adults, 85% said they thought private businesses should collaborate with police to catch criminals. And fifty percent thought private security system owners should keep their surveillance equipment up and running at its optimal quality.
It makes sense for police and private businesses: they can more easily identify and find a suspect. Private businesses, and even regular citizens are pooling camera feeds for the police all over the US.
ABC’s Dolak quotes Jonathan Turley, a professor at the George Washinghton School of Law. “The courts have long prevented, under the Fourth Amendment, the government conducting private surveillance,” Turley said. “But this effort all over the country to encourage private companies to create surveillance systems so that the information can be handed over to the government is a circumvention of the Constitution. This is changing who we are and our expectation of privacy.”