New software will boost surveillance capabilities for local police
The Rochester Police Department has purchased new software that will allow investigators to create a network of private and public security cameras from all over the city. The council approved the department's two-year, $33,498 deal with Minneapolis-based Securonet on Monday night. That was followed by a joint press conference between RPD and Securonet on Tuesday afternoon.
How it works
The department won't have control over the cameras, but they will have easier access to the footage. The software will allow law enforcement to create one large database of all the registered cameras in Rochester.
Investigators can type in an address where an incident occurred; see a map of all the nearby cameras; then send electronic requests to the camera owner alerting them that the department is interested in reviewing their footage.
In essence, it won't really change how the department uses surveillance video. Detectives will still need to ask permission to use private data. But according to Securonet founder Justin Williams, it will save officers from having to go door-to-door to make the requests — reducing the amount of time it takes law enforcement to conduct an investigation.
"It allows the members to start looking for that video footage very quickly, even before — and ideally — law enforcement drives up to their location to pick up the evidence," said Williams.
There is an option for viewing live video, but that will likely only be used in emergency situations. In those events, the department will still need to request permission from the camera's operator.
Network of cameras
The department won't have the system up and running until January. But within just a few weeks, it expects to launch an online database allowing businesses and property owners to begin registering their security cameras.
"This is a voluntary process," said Capt. John Sherwin, who handles the investigations unit. There is no cost for signing up.
Only investigators working on a case will have access to the database, meaning participating camera owners will not be able to see each other's information or surveillance video.
"We're mainly focused on cameras that have views of public spaces," said Sherwin. "We're not interested in internal cameras."
However, he noted the program could be useful for homeowners who "may inadvertently capture information that could be relevant in a case." Right now, he said, "that's untapped data."
Securonet's software is already being used by the Minneapolis Police Department. Its first big test came last winter during the St. Patrick's Day brawl in downtown Minneapolis. During that investigation, police used the technology to leverage $305,000 worth of video assets, according to the company.
About Sean Baker: Sean is the founder and editor of the Med City Beat. Under his direction, the site has transitioned from a small news blog to one of the most widely-read publications in the city. Prior to launching the site in 2014, Sean spent about two years producing television news in Green Bay and Rochester. His office is above a brewery, so please excuse any typos. Twitter.
(Cover photo: File / CC)