Website lists local surveillance camera sites

Online map can be accessed by both good guys, bad guys

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

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What if you knew where all the security cameras were located in your city? Would you feel safer, or would it feel too Big Brother?

The Portland-metro area recently became the second pilot city for CommunityCam, a crowdsourced map that pinpoints the locations of surveillance cameras. The service, available online to the public, is meant to help solve and prevent crimes. People can also plot out safer walking routes, according to VideoSurveillance.com, a seller of security camera systems that created the online map.

Although the site shows locations for over 800 cameras in Portland, there are only 74 mapped in Vancouver — 73 in the Vancouver Mall Loop and a lone camera along Columbia House Boulevard.

"With this effort, we hope that neighbors will start working together to help each other and to make all cities and towns safe," said Josh Daniels, president of VideoSurveillance.com.

Law enforcement officials regularly check surveillance videos as part of investigations but don't use an online database to figure out where they are. Instead, they just walk up to residents or businesses and ask. Vancouver Police Department officers work closely with stores in the Westfield Vancouver Mall to pull images or video footage of potential theft or forgery suspects.

Kim Kapp, department spokeswoman, points out that CommunityCam lists addresses in the mall but doesn't identify the business. So, an investigating officer would still have to find out who in the vicinity has a camera. The department has no plans to map where surveillance systems are located.

Clark County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Shane Gardner had an idea to create a map similar to CommunityCam, but in his version only law enforcement officers could access surveillance camera locations. After a burglary or car theft, officers could check to see if there's a camera in the area that might have caught the crime in action.

"Fundamentally this seems like it would fail," Gardner said of CommunityCam. "If good guys could look to see what is under surveillance after a crime is committed, wouldn't someone intending to commit a crime be able to go into this site and map an escape route or ingress-egress with the intent to avoid cameras?"

VideoSurveillance.com plans to roll out CommunityCam nationwide.

Patty Hastings: 360-735-4513; http://www.twitter.com/col_cops;patty.hastings@columbian.com