CEDAR RAPIDS — Last month, the Linn County Sheriff’s Office announced a voluntary surveillance camera registration program for residents and businesses.
The Cedar Rapids Police Department announced a similar initiative in March 2019 and the Marion Police Department followed suit last September.
The program, according to Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner, will provide investigators with quickly accessible information as to what cameras may be in the area when a crime occurs.
Gardner recently answered questions from The Gazette about the program.
Q: How does the voluntary surveillance camera registration program work?
A: Registration in the program is voluntary. If a crime occurred and investigators found there were registered cameras in the area, a request to access those images or footage would be made to the registered camera owner to voluntarily provide security camera footage from the date and time of the crime. Camera images or footage would only be requested to assist law enforcement during a criminal investigation.
Q: How would someone register their security cameras?
A: If they want to participate, residents and businesses who have working security cameras can go to our website and fill out an online form. It’s really simple.
The form asks for basic information like the name, address and contact information of the owner, the number of cameras they have and how long they store the footage. That information will then enable us to create a database of camera locations.
Q: Does registering for the program give the sheriff’s office automatic access to footage or images?
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A: No. Residents and businesses who voluntarily register for the (program) will be asked for permission to view the images recorded by their security cameras if a crime occurs in their neighborhood. Voluntary participation ... does not grant the sheriff’s office the right to directly or remotely access a registered individual’s cameras, cloud storage or surveillance footage unless expressly authorized by the registered owner.
Q: Why start a program like this?
A: The voluntary surveillance camera registration program will strengthen the investigative capabilities of the sheriff’s office, reduce crime in our community, and aid in apprehending criminals. Video has become an increasingly important tool for investigators. Between home and business-owned surveillance systems, there are not many places you can go these days that are not on camera. Access to those cameras’ images will allow law enforcement to be more efficient and allow residents to be proactive in fighting crime in their neighborhood.
Q: What will the sheriff’s office do with the registrant information collected?
A: The surveillance camera registration information will be maintained in a database that investigators will have access to. The database will only store the location of the registered cameras, the owner’s contact information and details about the system, like does the system record audio and how the footage is stored. The sheriff’s office would still need permission from the system owner to access the footage.
Q: What happens if an owner does not want to register their cameras or share footage?
A: Nothing. The program is completely voluntary. That said, if a crime did occur and a registered owner did not want to share the footage, we would probably go through the proper legal channels to obtain that footage if we thought it was important enough to an investigation.
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