Private security cameras could join police network in Moreno Valley, Calif.

City-owned cameras alone helped police in about 200 investigations over the past year


July 20--Moreno Valley is looking to expand the reach of its citywide video surveillance camera program.

The city already has 260 cameras posted at parks, rooftops and intersections providing live feeds to police under a program it started two years ago. Now it's hoping to "deputize" security cameras owned by private businesses, providing police with more locations to monitor crime.

The city-owned cameras have already proven effective helping police in about 200 investigations over the past year including a shooting last month, officials say.

"A natural extension is we know there are other cameras out there if people are willing to share views with us," said Steve Hargis, Moreno Valley's technology director. "It could help us out."

For now, the city plans to start with a six-month pilot program that will connect cameras belonging to five businesses to a system that allows the police department to tap in for live views.

A monitoring room at the police station allows officials to check the videos on several screens, switching to different locations as needed. The cameras can zoom in and out allowing police to read license plates and get a look at people's faces. A quarter of the cameras tilt and pan.

Hargis said police will access cameras when they get an emergency call at a location so they can get an immediate view of what's going on. The deputized cameras would only be used in situations where police want to get an immediate look at a particular situation and not be monitored continuously, he said. Video footage would not be stored either, Hargis said.

While many Inland cities have video surveillance programs, Hargis said he's not aware of any that use private cameras. Nationally, he said, Washington D.C., St. Paul and Santa Ana are among cities that tap into business cameras, he said.

Hargis added that the city is sensitive to people's concerns about privacy. The city offers tours of its monitoring center so residents can see how the program works for themselves.

"We're not interested in violating anybody's privacy," Hargis said. "We want to look at what's going on in public places."

The city hopes to launch the pilot program in four to six weeks after the five businesses have been selected. So far, only one outside agency, the Moreno Valley Unified School District, has offered the use of a camera at one of its schools.

"We just want to give it a trial run and see if there are any benefits to it," district spokesman Tim McGillivray said. "We have a close working relationship with the Moreno Valley police department and we were happy to take part in the trial run."

The district, like other businesses that take part, will be responsible for the costs of hooking up to the city system. Hargis said the arrangement benefits those that take part because of the added level of security.

The city is also offering a second level of participation where businesses let the city know where they have cameras and make them available when police want to review footage.

Participants will receive signs and stickers indicating their video footage is shared with the police and a logo stating "Deputy Cam."

___

Contact the writer: 951-368-9558 or ighori@pe.com

 

 

Copyright 2014 - The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.