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Surveillance Aims At Safety
Big Brother?
Stan. Co. Sheriffs


To enhance public safety on the streets of Riverbank, Police Chief Erin Kiely presented three options for surveillance video camera systems throughout the city to council members at a recent session. The City Council directed Chief Kiely to pursue Option two, which has no financial impact on the City.

Option two is the implementation of a Safe-Cam Program or a Community Video Partnership Program which would allow owners and legal occupants of commercial and residential properties to voluntarily register their outdoor video surveillance systems with Riverbank Police Services (RPS), free of charge.

“There has been success in other cities like Ventura, Philadelphia, Buffalo, New Orleans and Salt Lake City due to similar programs,” stated Kiely. “The cameras will help us with our criminal investigations by allowing us to gain imagery.”

The program is voluntary and with the cameras in public view along with help from the community, it should assist RPS with suspect identifications.

The program would map privately owned cameras that are in public view locations, log recording retention times, camera capabilities and a list of camera owner contact information. The RPS Community Services Officer would be tasked with processing applications, receiving, mapping and entering program data on regular duty time. In order to assist with the timely recovery of imagery related to a criminal investigation, RPS could send out e-mail notifications based upon a neighborhood’s proximity to the crime. Participants would review their imagery and then notify RPS if they have a possible suspect or involved vehicle image captured. Participants could then voluntarily provide relevant video recordings to RPS upon request. This should allow for more efficient investigations (as opposed to physically knocking on doors during a traditional canvassing of a neighborhood, which is time consuming and typically results in sporadic contact with homeowners). Participants can stop their participation in the program at any time, said officials.

In the presentation Chief Kiely added that the imagery is consensually accessed ‘after the fact’ and only regarding criminal investigations which should alleviate ‘big brother’ related concerns. The program is likely to enlist the use of hundreds of cameras with public views, so it’s likely to have a larger coverage area than a city owned camera system would have. It should help facilitate more time-efficient investigations.

The program success is largely dependent upon the degree of community participation, noted Kiely.

RPS is currently putting together the applications and forms to start the program.

The other option presented was Option one, which would be the installation of city owned cameras placed in public areas that have higher frequencies of crimes. The cost of the base station would be approximately $3,000 and the cost of each camera, including all that is needed to support it (i.e. security hardware, routers, data leads, key-fob resets, Ubiquity Antennas, etc.) would be approximately $10,500.

To get started on Option one, Kiely stated that they could start with a minimum of three cameras placed in areas with higher call volumes. However, there is currently no funding source for this option, though the city will continue to look into it.

Option three would have been a combination of one and two, enacted together.