Jul 10, 2023 - Politics

Cleveland seeks to use private cameras for public security

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Mayor Justin Bibb is encouraging residents and businesses to register security cameras in a new program that he says will enable public safety personnel to respond more quickly to criminal activity.

Why it matters: Bibb continues to pursue high-tech solutions in response to rising crime.

State of play: Last month, he announced the expansion of the controversial gunshot detection software ShotSpotter to all five Cleveland police districts.

  • Safe Smart CLE, the security camera initiative, began as a pilot like ShotSpotter, and it launched in preparation for the 2021 NFL Draft.
  • At that time, the program incorporated 350 cameras operated by the city, RTA and the NFL on a single, integrated system.

What they're saying: "Sadly, we continue to see unprecedented levels of violence plaguing our community," Bibb said in a statement. "We are doing everything we possibly can to reverse these trends; however, we cannot do it alone and need help from everyone in our community."

By the numbers: Through June 24, there had been 87 total homicides in Cleveland in 2023, up from 65 over the same span in 2022 and 82 in 2021.

How it works: Registering a camera does not allow outside access to the live stream. It merely alerts public safety personnel to the presence of a camera at that location. Investigators will contact camera owners via email to request video evidence if a crime occurs nearby.

  • Businesses also have the option of integrating their cameras into Cleveland's Real Time Crime Center, which requires additional hardware provided by the city and offers self-selected livestream capabilities.

Details: Residents who wish to register their devices can do so via a simple online form.

  • Nearly 2,000 cameras have already been registered.

Flashback: When former Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty launched a countywide security camera registry in 2016, the Ohio ACLU said it did not raise privacy concerns, as registration was voluntary.


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