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Genetec's New Tool Lets Cops Build Private Camera Registries

It's become more common in recent years for law enforcement agencies to build networks of private cameras to request footage from when needed. Now the company Genetec is offering a new tool to make it easier.

A map showing locations of cameras in Genetec Clearance
Genetec, a security and video software company, has become the latest to give police a way to build networks of private cameras.

The move comes in the form of a new module for Genetec Clearance, which is a digital evidence management system sold to law enforcement. The module allows users to “enroll” private cameras so that agencies can find them if they ever want to see their video feeds.

The idea is that the owners of those cameras can volunteer to enroll their cameras. Then, in the event law enforcement wants to see footage from the camera — to see if the camera captured a certain vehicle passing by at a specific time, for example — they could use the software to send a request to the camera’s owner. Then the owner can upload their footage to the agency, which can add it to whatever other digital evidence it’s collecting for the case at hand.

“Where we used to keep paper records, we now store everything digitally in Clearance — including crime scene photographs, patrol photos from cellphones, interviews and all our reports and records,” said Captain Mike Bell, Identification Division commander at the Galveston, Texas, Sheriff’s Office, in a press release.

The concept of building out private networks of voluntary camera owners has become more popular among police departments in recent years, especially with the rise of smart doorbells and home security cameras. Ring, which makes a popular video doorbell, has struck up partnerships with more than 1,800 law enforcement agencies and nearly 350 fire departments across the country, giving them a way to quickly search for cameras in a given area and request footage.

Civil rights advocates such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation have argued that these networks erode the ability of people to remain at least somewhat anonymous in public spaces, and warned about the ability of new technologies to quietly enhance law enforcement’s reach as time goes on — especially ethically thorny technology such as facial recognition.

In its press release, Genetec described its software as helping police to work more with their communities.

“Investigators are under a lot of pressure to solve cases,” said Genetec Senior Product Group Manager Erick Ceresato in the statement. “Our goal is to provide cities and public safety agencies technology to reduce time spent on mundane tasks and provide methods to collaborate more effectively with businesses and the public. We’re pleased to offer solutions like Genetec Clearance that can be used to build closer partnerships within communities and better leverage the full potential of evidence available to improve public safety.”