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Should You Register Your Security Cameras?

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These days, many homeowners have some type of security camera, most commonly the inexpensive doorbell security cameras that you can get for about $100.

The good thing about these types of cameras is that they can be motion activated, so they start recording well before someone knocks on your front door.

For example, a Texas man was charged with stabbing his pregnant sister to death after he was caught confessing to the killing on doorbell camera video.

Michael E. was taken into custody the same day that his sister Jennifer was found suffering from multiple stab wounds at a home about 17 miles north of Austin.

Jennifer, who was in the first trimester of pregnancy, died at the scene.

An arrest warrant states Michael was captured on doorbell video camera holding a knife as he left the home after the killing.

In addition, the doorbell video recorded him telling a church member, “I killed Jennifer.”

When police arrived at the home, they found Jennifer on the kitchen floor suffering from injuries to her abdomen and face.

Michael was found in the street outside the home naked with blood on him and a 10-inch bloody knife on the ground next to him.

The church member, Linda, told police that Jennifer had asked her to come to the house and that when she got there, she heard yelling inside.

A short time later, Michael emerged from the home smiling, holding a knife and saying he had killed his sister.

Jennifer was a married mother of two daughters, and worked as a nurse at a medical center in Austin.

Michael was being held at the Travis County Correctional Complex on a $500,000 bond.

The fact is, home security cameras can play a huge role in helping police solve crimes.

More recently, there was a viral video showing a Las Vegas woman running up to a home to try and get away from her boyfriend who was beating her and kicking her, which was all caught on a homeowner’s video doorbell.

Obviously, these cameras are a great tool for protecting your home and staying safe.

However, the question is, should you give your local police access to your video doorbell?

Should you register it with the police to let them know that in the event of a crime near your home, they can access your video doorbell to look for clues?

Now, I’ll be perfectly honest, I am not a fan of registering anything. But, after reading below, it might make sense for you.

The Good.

Free Camera. More and more police departments are offering homeowners free cameras, however, when police request footage from the camera that homeowner must provide the video.

In one experiment, the video doorbell company Ring partnered with the Los Angeles Police Department to install video doorbells in 41 out of 400 Wilshire Park, California homes.

After the cameras were installed, neighborhood burglaries were cut by more than half compared to the year prior.

Police are bound to laws. Police are bound to local and federal laws restricting how they may collect evidence and investigate crimes.

Private citizens monitoring their own property aren’t necessarily subject to the same restrictions.

Providing police with privately obtained footage helps authorities to legally circumvent governmental regulations that may hinder an investigation.

Get the bad guys. When it comes to the success of registering your security cameras with police, there is no question it solves crimes.

In fact, the Philadelphia Police Department says that footage provided through its camera registration program has led to 270 additional arrests over three years.

The Bad.

Over sharing. If a citizen captures sensational video of a crime, their first instinct might be to share it on social media.

The problem is, police caution that social media oversharing can interfere with investigations.

When a video goes public, it can cut off leads for the police or interfere with investigative techniques.

Vigilante justice. There are social media or sometimes neighborhood groups that encourage citizens to take home security and neighborhood safety into their own hands.

One mobile app called Citizen, which shares real-time crime information, was initially banned from the App Store because of law enforcement concerns regarding the app supporting vigilante justice.

My point is, you want to be cautious with who you share video with.

Understand the access. What kind of access are you agreeing to if you register your camera with a police department?

Of course, there is nothing wrong with offering up various pieces of your feed in the event a crime does occur nearby.

On the other hand, allowing police to exercise their own judgment on a continuous 24/7 feed is where problems arise.

In fact, the video doorbell company Ring actively discourages the open-access model for police and says it discourages police partners from requiring it.

For as long as there have been surveillance cameras, it’s been standard practice for law enforcement to ask homes and businesses for footage in the event of a nearby crime.

With that being said, I would feel more comfortable with the local police contacting me and asking me for the video footage, rather than registering my video camera and giving them unfettered access to my personal surveillance cameras.

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