An odd home security monitoring concept

This may be the "open platform networking" gone to far. In Atherton, Calif., the police are offering to monitor home video surveillance cameras owned and used by the town's residents. Just pay your $300 initiatiion fee plus $269 per camera and an annual $50/camera monitoring fee and the police will monitor your cameras for you.

Privacy is assuaged by the note that the cameras only deliver video to the police station if an alarm trips (note to Atherton residents: Don't trip the alarm in the middle of the night while walking around half-clothed or you'll be eyed by central dispatch). If residents don't have fancy IP cameras (the city uses Milestone's video management software, so it needs IP-based feeds), then they can use an encoder to connect their cameras into the system. It's probably not quite so simple as the city would have you think, but it's an interesting proposition nonetheless.

Interesting, yes. Smart, probably not. In fact, the whole idea behind this project begins to seems a bit questionable when you consider that there are plenty of central station monitoring firms that offer video surveillance camera monitoring. It makes me wonder: Why should the police in Atherton, Calif., be duplicating the services of private industry? Consider also, do people in Atherton really want city government focused on alarm and video monitoring services as opposed to doing things like paving roads and enforcing laws?

Ah, but here's the telling statistic: In 2005, the town's zip code, 94027, was listed as the most expensive zip code in the United States by Forbes magazine. So maybe this is about a bunch of wealthy property owners turning the city's police department into their own private alarm monitoring and guard services firm.

Even if the city has fixed every leaky sewer pipe, eradicated crime and has every road freshly paved, I still say they should leave the monitoring to companies where that is there primary focus, and leave enforcement to the police. Dillution of duties doesn't help anyone.