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Sharing Security Feeds With Law Enforcement

A dominant trend in the security world in recent years has been the advent of city-wide surveillance systems. These systems are designed to monitor high-traffic areas and downtowns of cities where crime has been a problem and provide police with the constant vigilance necessary to prevent crimes and respond to incidents in progress – within minutes. Most of these public surveillance systems have been installed by police and paid for by public funds, but in recent years a new phenomenon has also been emerging: sharing of surveillance feeds between private residents and business with local law enforcement.

The City of Atlanta was one of the first municipalities to introduce such a program, first coming up with the idea back in 2013. When it first started, the city had tied over 1700 camera feeds into their own security network of several thousand cameras. Their goal was to soon have a network of over 14,000 cameras both public and private, providing around-the-clock monitoring for crimes and immediate response, and they’ve also begun to send “live crime data”to officers in the field.

By 2017, the city had over 8,000 cameras sending feeds to their Operation Shield Video Integration Center, where all the video is monitored and verified. The plan is to keep adding to the network. City officials see it as a modern way for people and businesses to invest the community – not with their money, but simply by sharing their security camera footage to help keep residents safe. Some businesses will even use the occasion to upgrade their systems to newer, more capable ones.

More recently, the city of Brookline, Massachusetts started an optional program like the one in Atlanta, asking residents whose cameras face towards the street to register with the police department if they are willing to share footage in case of an emergency. The footage would not be fed or monitored by the central station but would be on a list of resources the police could consult during investigations, saving time and money.  The same system has also been put in place in New Orleans, which has a list of over 6,000 cameras across the city.

While these systems are relatively new, private citizens and businesses have been creating their own security network for years. 13 casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey started combining security efforts in 2012, sharing their surveillance video with each other and the police. They used an system called MutualLink to tie everything together and make sure that the 13 different security systems in place would all be compatible.

One common concern tying these systems together has been that of privacy issues. But most systems and programs in place are completely voluntary, and businesses and homeowners only have to share what video footage and data they feel comfortable sharing. And in most cases, the cameras were operable and constantly surveying before being connected to law enforcement.

Whatever you think of the trend, it’s just one of the many ways that new security efforts are making communities safer and more secure.  

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