Problematic Behavior or Activity
A growing number of people are purchasing security cameras for their homes and businesses. The cost of surveillance systems is coming down and the quality of video is going up; the systems are also accessible with phone applications. Security cameras are proving to be incredibly valuable in criminal cases and often provide more accurate information than witness statements. The problem is knowing where the cameras are located, how many cameras exist, the types of cameras, and contact information for the owners. Searching for cameras in the area where a crime has occurred must be done by manually checking the area and seeing a camera; concealed cameras often go undetected.
Impact on the Community
This is an issue of solving and preventing crime. Not only are security cameras valuable in reconstructing a crime, they are also deterrents. Criminals tend to avoid areas where they know they are under surveillance.
The Security Camera Registration and Mapping (SCRAM) program encourages citizens to register their camera through the Medford Police Department’s website using a one-page form. With this information, the MPD can ascertain exactly where the security cameras are located, how many there are, what areas are covered, the type of system, and contact information. In return for registering, the MPD provides the citizen with a six-inch weatherproof sticker alerting people that this home or business participates in the SCRAM program. The sticker has a graphic of police lights and a police badge and a picture of security camera with the slogan “If you can see this, we can see you.” This is meant to be a deterrent to criminal behavior in the area.
The information is captured and plotted on a mapping program by ESRI Geographical Information System. The information is also accessed through a phone application so that it can be accessed in the field.
Based on Research
SCRAM was based on Sacramento County’s Sheriff’s Electronic Eye (S.E.E.) Program. Sacramento has approximately 3,000 cameras registered with its system.
No additional funding was needed to implement the program.
The program helps investigators identify locations of security cameras to obtain critical video evidence. The MPD has used the program on many occasions. The sticker also helps deter crime, but it is difficult to assess how many crimes are deterred as a result of the visible stickers.
Critical Success Factors
People are apprehensive about registering their cameras with the police department and there is a common misconception that the MPD has access to the cameras, which is not the case. Registration provides only the location of the cameras and contact information.
The program succeeds only if people register their cameras. If the MPD comes across a camera during a criminal investigation, officers check to see whether it is registered. If not, the MPD will assist the citizen in completing the form. The department also publicizes the program through a media campaign, its website, and social media.
Remind citizens that police cannot view the camera’s records and do not have any access or log-in information for their system.