Sacramento County sheriff’s officials are asking residents and business owners with surveillance cameras on their properties to sign up for a new registry that would be available to law enforcement in need of footage.
The Sheriff’s Electronic Eye, or S.E.E., program would alert officers from any law enforcement agency to any privately owned surveillance systems in the area of a particular crime or location of interest. Law enforcement would be able to obtain surveillance footage only with the owner’s consent – even if the surveillance system is part of the registry.
The registry does not give law enforcement access to live surveillance feeds or a camera’s archived footage, according to Sheriff Scott Jones. Footage would have to be physically provided by the owner.
In a Thursday news conference, Jones stressed that the registry is a “tremendous tool” for law enforcement. But he spent a good portion of the conference trying to head off anticipated criticisms of the program.
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“It is not Big Brother. I’m highly sensitive to the security and surveillance camera concerns that many folks have,” Jones said. “It is completely voluntary.”
Jones said that he has been researching the possibility of a registry for years, and has spoken openly about his idea with community and business groups. The response, he said, has been positive.
“There is a wide interest in it,” he said. “Clearly it’s not for everyone. There will be folks that don’t want to for their own reasons but honestly, the more people I talk to, there has been kind of an acceptance building about this.”
Those who choose to register will be asked to provide their name, contact information, address and a little information about their camera, such as where it is and what direction it faces. They will be given a sticker they can put on their property, which could be a deterrent to potential criminals, Jones said.
After a crime, law enforcement officials can search the registry for cameras in the area and then reach out to owners about obtaining footage. Jones said that in the past, officers have had to physically search an area looking for cameras, or put out a plea to the public, as they have sometimes done in high-profile cases.
He said the registry could be particularly helpful in child-abduction or missing-person cases.
“This could help us really define the search for this person and find them much quicker,” he said.
During Thursday’s news conference, Jones also announced two other technological developments in the Sheriff’s Department: the development of an application for mobile devices (available in your iPhone or Android app store) and the department’s new partnership with Nextdoor.com.
Jones said more than 9,000 residents of the unincorporated county already are signed up for Nextdoor.com. The sheriff’s involvement will allow officials to communicate with particular neighborhoods or disseminate public safety information. Nextdoor.com has been likened to a Facebook for neighbors, where, among other things, people can share information about garage sales, items for sale or suspicious activity in the neighborhood.