Boston Police seek to catalog private security cameras

Boston Police have begun reaching out to residents and merchants in Dorchester’s District C-11 to compile a comprehensive list of private cameras that will be used to collect evidence in the aftermath of crimes in the neighborhood. The Cam-Share program is expected to go citywide based on the results of the Dorchester effort, according to Captain Tim Connolly, the commanding officer at District 11.

Connolly says that canvassing for surveillance video has become standard procedure in just about every incident that occurs in the city, from armed robberies and breaking and entering calls to homicides. Last June, Boston Police used surveillance video from private homes on Ashmont Hill as they sought two young men who had fatally shot another young man on Ashmont Street. The footage proved critical in the probe into the daylight shooting, said Connolly. Such footage has also been employed to solve less violent crimes, from the theft of packages from front porches to car thefts.

A fully integrated network of private cameras, Connolly said, could help speed up police probes. Officers will have a database available to them showing where pre-registered private cameras exist. Connolly says that eventually, with the consent of private citizens, the cameras could be patched into a citywide intelligence unit run by Boston Police to give investigators even more immediate access to video. There are already some buildings in Dorchester that are monitored by that unit, known as the BRIC— short for Boston Regional Intelligence Center.

“We’re also asking people, if they are comfortable, to give passwords that will allow us to go into their cameras and look,” said Connolly. “Right now, there’s so many different platforms that don’t speak to each other, and it’s a lot more complicated than it might sound. I just don’t think we’re there with that technology just yet, but that would be the goal.”