In a bid to expand its surveillance network, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police want to connect to private businesses' cameras, which would allow officers to monitor malls, gas stations, and banks across the county, says the Charlotte Observer. Police Chief Rodney Monroe did not say how many cameras the department hopes will be linked to its network, but the policy change would be an unprecedented expansion since the department started using cameras 12 years ago.
The department is already connected to private cameras at several locations. Police say expanding the network would help them catch more criminals and prevent crimes. The cameras would also collect more images of people who haven't done anything wrong and store the video on police servers for weeks. Much of the technology was paid for by money police got from the federal government to boost security during the Democratic National Convention. “The goal of the technology is to create a safer environment and for all citizens to feel that [the police department] is out there to support them, not to take on a big brother role,” Monroe told the City Council. Police have access to about 650 cameras, Monroe said. In contrast, Chicago, which is nearly four times as large as Charlotte, had an estimated 10,000 cameras by 2011. Baltimore, with 130,000 fewer people, had more than 500 cameras, concentrated in the city's downtown area.