Police in Jackson, Mississippi are running a pilot project in which they can access feeds from private surveillance cameras when a crime has been reported nearby. If the 45-day trial run proves successful and the city expands the program, residents and businesses could eventually opt to give police access to live streams from their own security systems, such as Ring, Wyze or Arlo cameras.
“Ultimately, what will happen is residents and businesses will be able to sign a waiver, if they want their camera to be accessed from the Real Time Crime Center,” the city’s mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba told WLBT-TV. “It would save [us] from having to buy a camera for every place across the city.”
The pilot is limited to up to five city-owned cameras and five private devices. Police will only access feeds when a crime has been reported in the area, Lumumba said. The crime center could then use nearby cameras to look for things like escape routes, getaway vehicles and potential suspects running away from a scene.
Two companies are providing police equipment to monitor feeds. One of them, FUSUS, has a cloud-based platform through which crime centers can obtain surveillance video. "FUSUS allows us to connect into cameras,” Lumumba said. “If someone says, ‘I want my Ring door camera to be used,’ we’ll be able to use it.”
“This is not a Ring program and Ring is not working with any of the companies or the city in connection with this program,” a Ring spokesperson told Engadget in a statement. Engadget has contacted other home security camera manufacturers and the Jackson police department for comment.
The pilot is starting just a few months after Jackson became the first southern city in the US to ban police use of facial recognition.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has criticized the project and its possible expansion over potential privacy intrusions. "If police want to build a surveillance camera network, they should only do so in ways that are transparent and accountable, and ensure active resident participation in the process," EFF policy analyst Matthew Guariglia wrote. "If residents say 'no' to spy cameras, then police must not deploy them."
Guariglia suggested police use of residents’ cameras could allow officers to evade "the natural reaction of fear and distrust that many people would have if they learned police were putting up dozens of cameras on their block, one for every house."
Law enforcement agencies can access footage from Ring cameras if users permit them to do so. The company said last year police can keep videos captured from its cameras forever if you hand them over. Earlier this year, Ring added a control center to its mobile app that includes a toggle to opt out of police video requests.