Calling all cameras

Bayonne police ask residents to register their security cameras

Residents' security cameras will be enlisted to help combat crime.
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Residents' security cameras will be enlisted to help combat crime.

The Bayonne Police Department encourages residents and business owners to register their surveillance cameras with the police department so that officials can more efficiently investigate crimes.

“If we had an incident in a certain area, we would go out to canvas the area to capture the incident, so we came up with this idea,” said Bayonne Police Chief Robert Geisler. “Rather than waste precious time to scour the area where an incident occurs to look for a camera, we can know what camera is where and who to contact, thus saving precious time in investigating a crime.”

The practice is becoming increasingly common in municipalities across the state and country. Jersey City last year introduced a similar program.

The city also passed an ordinance requiring bars to register their cameras.

Anonymity assured

Private property owners can register their cameras, such as the ones manufactured by Nest, Blink (owned by Amazon), and Ring. Many residents purchase the cameras to help prevent vandalism and theft, especially of delivered packages. Police will not have a live feed to any of these cameras. Registering the devices gives police a list of cameras, where those cameras are located, and who to contact to access the footage.

“People don’t have to worry about us releasing anybody’s identity because this is just for our information in house,” Geisler said. “We don’t share with anyone. We don’t tell your neighbors we’re reviewing your service cameras or taking part in the program. There’s complete anonymity.”

The police department requires the owner’s permission and cooperation to view, download, or copy any recorded incidents. Police personnel will ask to view footage relating only to a specific incident for use as evidence to aid in ongoing investigations. Residents and business owners will never be called into court because police will have already downloaded the footage.

Residents who were victims of crimes often post those videos online to solicit vigilante justice from the community. Police generally advise against this, because the crime victims can be retaliated against, or the footage can be used by perpetrators to hinder the investigation. The victim of the crime could also incriminate him or herself if the perpetrator is incorrectly identified.

According to 2016 FBI crime statistics, 18 percent of reported property crimes resulted in a charge. That rate goes down to 13 percent for burglary and motor vehicle theft. The jury is out on whether security cameras help increase that rate or prevent crime from happening in the first place. Still, most people feel a sense of comfort in having the security system installed.

To register a camera online, visit https://www.bayonnepd.com/camera_registry.shtml.