The Vancouver Police Department is launching a program for city residents and business owners to register information about their surveillance systems in an effort to hasten criminal investigations.
The police department announced the launch of its Community Camera Registration Program in a Tuesday news release.
“Through this registration program, officers conducting investigations can quickly identify cameras that may have captured criminal activity for the cases they are working,” the police department said.
People who choose to participate in the program would share details such as their location and the capabilities of their privately owned camera systems. They would be contacted by officers about video only if there was a crime near a camera registered with the program.
The registration form for the program asks for several details, including when the system records, how long recordings are stored and what a camera’s field of view covers.
“Video footage is extremely helpful in locating information about vehicles, people, timelines etc., when we are investigating crimes. The process, however, is slow as the officer has to drive or walk around an area looking for possible cameras and then attempt to contact the owner,” department spokeswoman Kim Kapp said in an email.
“We don’t have any data on how many crimes are solved using video,” Kapp added. “But needless to say, it could be a very important component of a case, and the registration program would save valuable time by being able to know if a camera exists and having the contact information for the owner.”
The police department noted that it was not aiming to gain access to video directly. As in the past, officers would reach out and ask to view footage.
Kapp said the police department based its launch on other communities nationally that have had success.
“The goal of this program is to empower residents by taking a community wide approach to policing. We are excited to take our community partnership efforts to the next level with the (program),” Vancouver Police Chief James McElvain said in a prepared statement.
On the webpage for the program, the police department says residents and business owners are often unaware their cameras may have captured information that could help police.
Comments under a Vancouver police Facebook post showed a mixed reaction to the program’s launch. Some commenters wrote that they thought the program was smart and were willing to pitch in, while others expressed skepticism over how the information would be used.
Shanna Tuttolomondo wrote that the program concerned her because her cameras are installed to protect her personal property. She paid for the system, she said, and argued that going through hours of video at the behest of detectives seemed like a hassle.