Community Camera Registry: A Collaborative Approach to Neighborhood Safety

Sept. 21, 2023
A community camera registry program enables closer collaboration between law enforcement, public entities, and private businesses.

Video evidence is a crucial tool in modern police investigations, and video from private businesses can often aid in solving crimes. Yet retrieving video evidence from your community is time-consuming. Manually tracking down and requesting footage from cameras located near the scene of an incident is inefficient. This process may slow down your investigation and take away time from solving your case.

One effective solution is to create a community camera registry program. This type of program dramatically reduces the amount of time that it takes for investigators to retrieve video footage from private and public security systems.

Participants in the program voluntarily register their cameras and share their contact information with police. During an investigation, police can locate potential sources of video evidence and request access. Businesses may also give law enforcement permission to their video under certain conditions, such as aiding investigations or responding to emergency calls.

A collaborative approach

A community camera registry program enables closer collaboration between law enforcement, public entities, and private businesses. It empowers community members to participate in keeping their neighborhoods safe. Law enforcement agencies and investigators spend less time driving around, knocking on doors, transferring files, and waiting for answers. Instead, they can focus their time and attention on investigating cases and solving crimes.

Citizens appreciate the opportunity to contribute to making their neighborhood safer. Collaborating with the community builds bridges with the public, increasing trust and cooperation. Businesses and residents feel better protected knowing that police are actively monitoring crime in their area. Signage and media coverage of such a program can also be a deterrent for crime.

How the program works

Without a community camera registry program, police must drive to each location and collect the memory card or hard drive with the video evidence. When they’re done, they must also return it. With a camera registration program, the process of obtaining evidence is digital. There’s much less hassle—no hunting down contact information, fighting traffic, or missing connections.

The program can also complement tip lines. Using secure links, citizens can voluntarily upload photo or video evidence from their phones to a secure platform. Because citizens don’t need to hand over their property or disclose their identity, they are more willing to help. Anonymous submissions can be permitted to encourage people to share.

A secure, cloud-based digital solution

With advancements in technology, communities can now take advantage of solutions that facilitate public/private collaboration. One example, the Genetec Community Connect framework, is powered by  the Genetec cloud-based digital evidence management platform combined with its open-architecture, cloud-based video management solution.

Businesses and residents can participate in the camera registry program at no cost. No additional hardware or software is required. Registration forms can be customized and embedded within an agency’s website to make it easy for citizens to participate.

Businesses and residents volunteer to share the number and location of video cameras they own and register to be part of the program. There may also be a memorandum of understanding (MOU) created to allow police to gain direct access to cameras under certain conditions. An example could be a 911 call from the business.

When the cameras are registered, they’re plotted on a map within a digital evidence management system. To aid in an investigation, detectives can quickly find nearby cameras and email the owners to request the relevant footage. The camera owner then clicks on a secure link to upload the video to a web-based portal. Police and other authorized personnel can view the evidence from any laptop, tablet, or cellphone.

Furthermore, using a digital evidence management system (DEMS) to share evidence is more secure than copying data to physical hard drives or sending files online. Data is encrypted and kept confidential, viewable only by select users with the correct permissions. A full audit trail reveals who has viewed, shared, or downloaded files to ensure the chain of evidence is clear.

Benefits of a community camera registry

Soon after launching a camera registry program in Naperville, Illinois, police found that collecting evidence from residents and business owners was smoother for all involved.

“I can see definite labor and time savings with the camera registry feature of Genetec Clearance.” (a digital evidence management system). “Canvassing neighborhoods, especially during major cases is a long process that sometimes must be repeated several times. The ability to ask for any surveillance video from residents and businesses without having to drive to the location will save us hours of work,” said Deputy Chief Zbrozek.

Similarly, Albuquerque Police Department (APD) created a real time crime center (RTCC), leveraging centralized access to all its cameras and data. They also pulled in data from community cameras. During large public events, APD can pull up video feeds within a specific radius to monitor activity. If there’s an incident, the RTCC uses real time footage to guide officers on the scene and help keep them safe.

Clearance has also helped the APD speed up evidence collection and strengthen ties within the community. While an existing camera registry program had helped the APD identify the location of privately owned cameras, officers still had to go to each business to collect footage.

Today, using the Clearance camera registry feature, they can quickly locate cameras on a map and email Albuquerque Community Connect participants to request specific videos. Camera owners simply click on a link to securely upload the video evidence. Detectives can then log in to Clearance to view it without ever leaving their desks.

Working together for safer communities

Bringing a community camera registry program to your community isn’t just about gaining quicker access to more sources of video evidence. It’s about working together to make their communities safer.

Collaboration between law enforcement officers and citizens builds trust and increases transparency. By joining forces to proactively solve neighborhood crime problems, police can investigate crime more effectively and even gain visibility into previously unreported crimes.

Author the Author

Phil Malencsik is a Strategic Account Executive on the Genetec Public Sector team. He has extensive experience in helping customers in both public sector and enterprise organizations. His focus is determining long term strategies for cities, campus security, and helping communities improve their overall security through unified solutions.

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