Cameras Cracking Cases: Security Customers Asked to Help Fight Crime in California City with Voluntary Registration
Once again, home security finds itself at an intersection of personal privacy and the public good.
San Jose, California, has joined the list of cities that have raised the idea of using private security cameras to aid in police investigations. A city councilman recently introduced a proposal that would allow local property owners to voluntarily register their security cameras with the San Jose Police Department. Officers responding to crimes across the city would have the ability consult maps showing the locations of nearby security cameras and request footage.
Police officials have expressed interest in the proposal, pending further study of the advantages and drawbacks.
In January, San Jose police used security footage voluntarily provided by property owners to identify a suspected arsonist linked to several suspicious fires. City Councilman Sam Liccardo, whose district includes the downtown area where the fires took place, introduced the security camera initiative on Jan. 23.
Other cities have considered or adopted similar proposals, including Chicago and Philadelphia.
Privatized public safety?
Councilman Liccardo has emphasized the voluntary nature of the plan, writing in a memo that “this is not about government surveillance of neighborhoods.” Despite his assurances, it’s understandable that some residents have reacted with skepticism. After all, we live in a time when the federal government’s data-mining program activities, undertaken under the auspices of national security, have drawn criticism from private citizens and legal experts alike.
In a story on the camera proposal, the San Jose Mercury News quoted Hanni Fakhour, a staff attorney for the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation: “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 potentially be really dangerous.”
At the same time, the fact that the San Jose initiative and others like it call for voluntary cooperation rather than mandatory compliance serves to mitigate any “Big Brother” arguments. Supporters of these policies also point out that footage willingly shared with the authorities sometimes helps in the arrest and prosecution of suspected criminals.
Share your thoughts on the subject
Like other issues, this one requires giving due consideration to each aspect – personal privacy, public safety and the level of government involvement in everyday life.
What do you think of this plan, and how would you react if an official in your community proposed something like it? Leave your comments below and let your voice be heard on HomeSecuritySystem.com.