Upper Arlington police launch Citizen Camera Partnership to fight crime
The Upper Arlington Police Division has launched an initiative to create a database of residences and businesses that have security cameras.
Following reports of a robbery, an attempted robbery and a house that was hit with gunfire in January, police officials started a Citizen Camera Partnership through which they hope local homeowners and businesses will tell the division about any surveillance cameras they have on their properties.
Under the parameters of the program, police won’t tap into the video feeds in real time.
They could, however, ask to access footage if they believe it could aid investigations of crimes in specific areas.
“The program was launched at the end of January,” said Emma Speight, Upper Arlington community-affairs director. “More and more police departments across the country are adding similar registries, recognizing the role that home (and) business security video cameras can play for both preventing crime and helping to identify suspects when a crime occurs.
“The UA Police Division has been able to successfully identify and prosecute a number of incidents because the victims had home security cameras on their property.”
Speight said officials “realized that keeping a database of properties with such devices could prove beneficial when investigating crimes within a localized area.”
City Manager Steve Schoeny said the camera initiative is an opt-in program that would allow officers to refer to the database so they would know which property owners they could reach out to in order to request footage that might assist investigations.
“By registering with the Citizen Camera Partnership program, residents and businesses are simply letting the UA Police Division know that these cameras are in use on their property, with no remote access desired or required,” Schoeny said. “Owners will always retain full control of recordings and are under no obligation to provide any requested images or video footage to the Police Division.”
A link to the registration form can be accessed online at upperarlington.gov/ua-police-launches-citizen-camera-partnership.
Questions about the program also can be sent to email@example.com.
Police launched the initiative following a series of reported crimes that occurred between Jan. 14-23.
According to the UAPD, on Jan. 14, a woman was jogging alone in the area of Waltham and Andover roads at approximately 6:45 p.m. when she was approached by a male, believed to be Hispanic, in dark clothing who demanded she get on the ground and empty her pockets.
The woman told police the man indicated he had a firearm and that he fled the scene after she gave him her cellphone and gloves.
On Jan. 19, a teenage girl reported she was walking alone near Suffolk and Coventry roads at approximately 5:15 p.m. when a male she described as Hispanic between 20 and 30 years old approached her and allegedly brandished a firearm.
The girl ran to a nearby house and the man fled after being chased by a male witness.
Police believe the same person could be the suspect in both instances.
They don’t, however, believe the reports are connected to a Jan. 23 incident in which a house in the 1700 block of Berkshire Road was hit with gunfire.
The Columbus Dispatch reported the home is owned by Dr. Mary Kathleen Francis, the assistant medical director for the Ohio Department of Health, who was not home at the time.
Police have made no arrests in any of the cases and are asking for the public’s help, including access to security home surveillance cameras might have captured images.
Gary Daniels, chief lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, said the Upper Arlington program doesn’t raise immediate concerns the organization has related to other issues involving law enforcement and surveillance video recorded at private homes.
That’s largely because the program allows residents and business owners to decide what, if any, video will be provided to police as opposed to a system where videos are fed directly to a central database and used by law enforcement for whatever purpose officers choose.
However, Daniels said the ACLU of Ohio is concerned that the Upper Arlington program could be a first step toward such a system.
“Given what has been going on in other cities and the rapidly advancing technology of home surveillance, we fear this will change in the future,” Daniels said. “For instance, local police in other areas have been pushing for adoption of technology, and in some situations providing it to residents, that allow for real-time access of video and/or collecting all the video data via cloud storage.
“This way, they can bypass the step of asking and receiving permission to access those videos every (and) any time they want.”
Daniels said police-public camera initiatives and emerging technologies that provide for facial recognition and automatic license-plate readers could lead to police being “more aggressive with what they collect, what they do with the data, and residents will have less control maintaining those videos.
“As that inevitably happens, how long will it be until and how many times will Upper Arlington government officials revise this program/plan at the expense of privacy and desires to be free of around-the-clock government surveillance of our homes, streets, neighborhoods and communities?” Daniels asked. “This is especially true (and0 concerning when combined with similar technologies in use.”
Echoing Schoeny, Speight said residents and business owners will retain authority over the footage their cameras capture and will decide if they wish to allow police to access it.
But she said registering homes or businesses through the camera partnership could play a vital role in future investigations in the community.
“Registering with the program does not give police access to the cameras, it merely lets the division know of their existence,” Speight said. “Should a crime occur, officers would refer to the database to see if there are registered properties close by that they can follow up with to request footage that might assist them with their investigation.”
Speight said the cities of Dublin, Grandview, Reynoldsburg and Whitehall have launched similar programs.
As of Feb. 9, she said, 55 cameras had been registered through the Upper Arlington program.
“The registry represents another useful tool in the community’s safety toolbox with the potential for residents to have a direct impact in the ongoing effort to keep UA safe from crime and to investigate those who have committed offenses in the city,” Speight said.