Baltimore is expanding its public surveillance network to include private security cameras that city officials hope will quadruple the number of digital eyes on neighborhoods and make residents and business owners feel more secure, reports the Baltimore Sun. The city yesterday launched a program two years in the making that gives police quicker access to the hundreds of private cameras mounted outside of businesses and homes around Baltimore. The voluntary program allows property owners to be part of the CitiWatch Community Partnership, which maps where cameras are located and points detectives to available security footage in areas where crimes have occurred.
When crime cameras were first installed in Baltimore in 2005, they numbered fewer than 200 and were largely confined to high-crime areas. The city’s network has grown to 696. Officials stress that becoming part of the CitiWatch system is voluntary and police officers will look at footage from the expanded private system only after they receive a report of a crime in the vicinity. The police will not be able to view a live feed from the newly signed-up private cameras. Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said the new program strengthens two areas in which police are trying to improve: technology and community relations. Philadelphia, San Jose, Ca., and Chicago are among other cities that have similar private security camera registries or networks.