Security camera video has become a valuable tool for police. Cameras caught the suspect who was setting fires in an east San Jose neighborhood earlier this month. Video also helped police in Alameda to identify a thief stealing a package from the front porch of a home.
No one knows how many cameras have been installed in San Jose, but Councilmember Sam Liccardo would like to create a database so police know where evidence of a crime might be caught on video.
"The police have to ask the individual property owner for permission to be able to have access to the videotape or data," Liccardo said. "As long as an individual always has the right to say no, that is absent a court order, then really there's no greater intrusion than exists today."
Liccardo took his proposal to a city council committee, which is the first step to making it a city-wide program. He hopes to partner with sellers of security camera systems to offer discounts to homeowners and business owners.
"I suspect there's a lot of cameras out there that could be useful to us and get them organized in a fashion where we can access them without having to go door-to-door in the middle of the night," San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed said.
There are critics, however, who point out even the break in the arson case wasn't the videos.
"What solved that arson crime was not the video cameras," San Jose resident Gloria Sanchez said. "It was a police sergeant who worked overtime. It was good police work."
Still, in a city losing police officers due to pension reform and pay issues, the video plan looks good to others.
"Every piece of evidence to any crime should be afforded to the San Jose Police Department without hesitation or delay," San Jose resident David Wall said. "This means a person that has a security system in their house can download it onto a flash drive and immediately call the San Jose Police."
City staff will now analyze the plan before the council votes.