Police in Braintree, Mass., Build Citizen Security Camera Registry

Authorities are compiling a voluntary database of homeowner security cameras to leverage as investigative resource.

by Neal Simpson, The Patriot Ledger / December 6, 2017

(TNS) — BRAINTREE, Mass.— If you have a security camera set up outside your home, Braintree police want you to let them know.

The department on Tuesday became the latest in the region to ask homeowners to voluntarily register their residential surveillance cameras – which have become increasingly common as technology has improved and prices have dropped – to help with police investigations. Police would still need to get homeowners' permission to view the footage, but knowing where cameras are located can help investigators identify sources of video evidence more quickly, police say.

"Oftentimes, your house might not be where the crime happened, but your cameras may have caught the suspect walking to or from the crime," said police officer Peter Gillis, who set up the department's registry.

Gillis, who also manages the Braintree Police Department's social media accounts, said he heard about departments elsewhere in the country building residential camera databases. He decided to bring the idea to Braintree last month after a homeowner with several security cameras helped police determine that one of the drivers was drunk in a crash on Washington Street. Gillis created an online form Tuesday morning and had about 15 camera registrations in the system by early afternoon.

Police for years have known that they can count on most businesses to have surveillance cameras, but Gillis said it's harder to know which homes have cameras without going door to door, which is what police typically do now.

"It's time consuming, it takes up resources and that's what we want to bring to a minimum," Gillis said.

That's also what prompted Whitman police to create its camera registry in June. Police Chief Scott Benton said the list has been helpful for investigators, but he acknowledged that not as many homeowners have signed up as he hoped, in part because of what he said are unfounded concerns about police spying on homeowners.

Benton said the registry maintained by his department is just a list and doesn't give police direct access to footage or even a right to view it; they need a homeowner's permission for that.

"All it does is let us know that they have a system, so that if something occurs in that area they're a resource that we possibly go can go to," Benton said.

The form for Braintree's camera registry is available at BriantreePD.org.

©2017 The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, Mass. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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