A New Jersey bill designed to make it easier for law enforcement to use private, outdoor video cameras in investigations was approved earlier this week by an Assembly panel. The legislation would let municipalities, through an ordinance, establish a registry that would allow any owner of a private outdoor video surveillance camera to voluntarily register the camera with the local police department.
Police across the country are using increasingly sophisticated surveillance systems to monitor daily life in their communities. Ultra-high-definition cameras, software that can read license plates and recognize faces, and systems that can alert police to suspicious behavior have given law enforcement unprecedented access to our everyday activities. Average citizens and privacy advocates say the ability to monitor and record public activity at such an extraordinary level is a threat to personal privacy.
Scranton’s plan to allow private, existing video surveillance cameras to feed into a network at the city’s police headquarters would be like having extra eyes on the streets, Police Chief Carl Graziano said. A community video-camera surveillance network would involve private surveillance cameras in the city, such as those at banks, businesses or colleges, to link to the police station on South Washington Avenue.
Whenever drone policy is raised as a topic, privacy concerns follow close behind it as a discussion point. The idea of aerial surveillance that is cheaper, less time-intensive, and requires fewer man hours to get off the ground leads immediately to concerns about the development of a surveillance state, where individuals can be monitored round the clock, and every public action can be recorded for posterity.
Iveda® (OTCQB: IVDA), a leading enabler of cloud-based video surveillance through its Sentir™ platform, announced its partnership with Wolfcom Enterprises, manufacturer of body-worn cameras based in Hollywood, California. The partnership will offer next generation integration of proprietary cloud technology into a body camera, enabling cloud storage, and access to live video.
Police leaders who have deployed body-worn cameras say there are many benefits associated with the devices. They note that body-worn cameras are useful for documenting evidence; officer training; preventing and resolving complaints brought by members of the public; and strengthening police transparency, performance, and accountability. In addition, given that police now operate in a world in which anyone with a cell phone camera can record video footage of a police encounter, body-worn cameras help police departments ensure events are also captured from an officer’s perspective.
Spurred by the Ferguson, Missouri shooting, President Barack Obama is calling for $75 million in federal spending to get 50,000 more police to wear body cameras that record their interactions with civilians. The package includes $75 million for to help pay for the small, lapel-mounted cameras to record police on the job, with state and local governments paying half the cost.
The Chicago-area suburb of Elgin is using Motorola Solutions’ real-time intelligence console (RIC) technology to put public and private video surveillance on a single platform that integrates with the computer-aided dispatch mapping software in the 911 center, according to city police officials. “Like most departments, we’re having issues with making sure we have appropriate staffing,” Elgin Police Chief Jeff Swoboda stated. “One of the ways we looked at creating a force multiplier was through the use of video cameras.”
When a bad guy abducted a woman off the street in Philadelphia a few weeks ago and she was rescued when his car was located in Maryland, I marveled at the black box technology that found the vehicle. Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, D-Essex, NJ, was even more impressed with a nearby store’s video camera that recorded the entire incident and identified the car. So he crafted bill A-3843 permitting a municipality to enact an ordinance establishing a private outdoor video surveillance camera registry, requiring owners of such cameras to register them with police.
The ACLU recently released a report regarding how security and surveillance cameras and recordings are beginning to erode at civil liberties. The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California recently launched a statewide campaign to ensure that public debate, oversight, and accountability precede the acquisition of surveillance technologies by law enforcement agencies. Counties and cities across California have spent in excess of $60 million on invasive surveillance technology, and only five of 90 communities studied held a public debate each time they introduced a new element, according to the ACLU report released Nov. 12.