SAN JOSE (AP) — Officials in Silicon Valley’s largest city voted unanimously to create a registry of private surveillance cameras that could help police solve crimes.
While the database approved Tuesday night by the San Jose City Council does not require private residences or businesses with security cameras to register with the city, officials hope they will join voluntarily.
Similar private camera databases have been set up in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia, where the Police Department claims its registry has led to 200 arrests in a single year. Other Northern California cities, including Sacramento, Los Gatos and Fremont, have private camera registries.
In San Jose, the goal is let police know where cameras are located so they can check for possible surveillance footage of crimes that occur in a particular area. Police must still request the footage from the camera owners or obtain a court order for it.
The idea came from Councilman Sam Liccardo, a candidate for mayor, after police used security footage provided by property owners to catch a suspect accused of setting at least a dozen fires, including at a church and a warehouse, within a week in January. No one was injured in the fires that put residents on edge in San Jose, the San Francisco Bay Area’s largest city with more than 1 million people.
“Our overworked police officers are stretched thin, and we need to leverage the energy, the time, the commitment of our community and the resources of our community to make us safer,” Liccardo told reporters ahead of Tuesday’s vote.
However, Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese, Liccardo’s opponent in the mayor’s race, and the city’s police union said Tuesday that cameras won’t replace a short-staffed 1,000-person police department that’s lost about 400 employees in the last several years due to budget cuts and attrition.