More often that not, those of us who live in Denver and other sizable communities in Colorado and beyond are being watched by cameras maintained by municipalities and mounted in busy public areas. Now, cops in one Front Range community want to expand the network by supplementing their own surveillance gadgets with privately owned ones.
The Brighton Police Department is asking owners of local homes and businesses equipped with surveillance cameras to register the devices with the city. And BPD senior communications specialist Janelle McPherson expects other Colorado places to follow suit.
"It's kind of a trending thing here," McPherson says. "Longmont already does it. They've implemented it there and it's been successful. That's where we got the idea from — and now we're incorporating it for Brighton."
The concept, McPherson explains, is that "investigators and the police department are aware of where cameras are. That way, if something happens in the area, they know they can reach out to a property owner or business and say, 'We think a crime was committed around this time and this date. We want to look at your camera.'"
There's been a debate for years over whether more surveillance cameras make people safer. But McPherson, who points out that the City of Brighton "has about 150 cameras mostly located at city buildings and parks," offers specific evidence that the approach works.
"The Brighton Police Department has used footage in the past to solve crimes," she notes. "For example, a car accident off Fourth and Bromley was solved by asking for footage from cameras in the area, and the police department was able to see which driver was at fault. In addition, many business in town have worked with investigators by sharing camera footage when crimes took place in the area."
Knowing in advance which home or business has a camera speeds up the investigative process, McPherson believes. "If police officers and investigators know what's out there, we know who to ask if we need footage or any kind of help in our investigation. So it's kind of contracting with the cameras we wouldn't normally have access to."
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McPherson emphasizes that the new program is strictly voluntary, and she doesn't want those uncomfortable with the thought of police knowing where their cameras are to feel any pressure. But she hopes others will be open to taking part.
"Officers can’t be everywhere at all times, so this partnership with the community will serve as an extra set of eyes around our town," she allows.
Make that a lot of extra sets.
Brighton residents can click to register for the department's neighborhood surveillance camera program.