City Considers Creating Security Camera Registry

City leaders will consider moving forward with a plan to create a security camera registry that would allow police to tap into surveillance footage from private citizens.

The proposal, up for review at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, would allow residents to voluntarily register their cameras with a citywide law enforcement database. The San Jose Police Department would access the footage after a crime in the area.

Councilman Sam Liccardo introduced the idea earlier this year after police closed in on a suspected arsonist in downtown using video footage submitted from nearby residents.

Privacy groups raised concerns about the plan, saying it gives authorities surveillance access to a private place.

The city may model the database after one in San Ramon, where a two-page web portal describes the program on the first page and offers a registration form on the second. It would take about 50 staff hours to set up a similar website in San Jose, according to the city. And once it’s running, would require minimal maintenance.

“This approach of creating a simple program would help to ensure that the maximum number of interested parties are given the opportunity to register,” Assistant City Manager Angelique Gaeta writes in her memo.

Other cities that have similar registries include Philadelphia, Dover (Maryland), Sacramento, Los Gatos, where businesses and homes have signed up, and New York City, which also crowd-sources video feeds when searching for suspected criminals.

Philadelphia, Dover and San Ramon reported a drop in property crimes since creating the program. Some cities give stickers for program users to post on their property, similar to a neighborhood watch badge, to advertise their cooperation. Some have boosted leads by posting submitted footage on police department social media pages, getting people to comment, share and keep and eye out for suspects.

“[Police] believe their surveillance camera registry programs established a deterrent for criminal activity in areas where it is well-known that a significant amount of surveillance cameras are registered,” Gaeta writes. “More specifically, the City of Dover Police Department reported that a significant number of downtown businesses participate in the program which has led to a decrease in vandalism and burglaries in that area.”

Liccardo wants to add a mapping component to the registry, so authorities can quickly find the location of a camera.

"Clearly, we can do far more by creating a simple registry, aided with software that can display the geographic proximity of cameras to a crime scene (e.g., on a Google Map), to quickly enable officers to know who to call to request footage if a burglary or robbery has been committed nearby," he writes in a memo.

More from the San Jose City Council agenda for Sept. 10. 2013:

  • Mobile homes should be protected given the city’s lack of affordable housing, Mayor Chuck Reed and Councilwoman Madison Nguyen say. The city should make it a priority to come up with a mobile home ordinance that would keep them safe from future development. With 10,000 units in 59 parks, San Jose has the highest number of mobile homes than any other Bay Area city—possibly in the state. But under the city’s official blueprints for future development, several of those parks lie in areas slated for urban villages, making them likely targets for conversion. “The urgency of this situation makes this policy a priority and necessary to protect one of the few affordable housing options we currently have,” reed and Nguyen write. “We must do more to promote affordable housing within San Jose and that should begin with protecting the options we do have.” Residents of a mobile home park near Santana Row have been asking the city for help for the past year, ever since finding out that property owners have been negotiating a deal with developers. “This is particularly troublesome given the state of affordable housing in our city and the lack of opportunities or alternative options for displaced residents,” the memo states. “Furthermore, any change to their living arrangements would not only be a temporary disruption, but would dismantle the social network many of these residents rely on.”
  • San Jose’s airport is still trying to bump its airline capacity back to pre-recession levels. To help bring in new business, the city hires outside air service consultants. The council will consider a $975,000 three-year contract with Seabury APG and AviaSolutions.
  • The city is looking for another employee to serve on its Federated Retirement Board after a member took a job in Cupertino, leaving an unanticipated vacancy.
  • A homeowner is asking to pay off a down payment assistance loan if the city agrees to lift deed restrictions on the property. Varun Shah, a patent attorney, bought the townhome in East San Jose at the height of the market in 2006 for $565,000. When he bought the home, it was subject to a city policy that required the developer to provide discount down payment assistance loans to moderate-income buyers for 20 percent of units. Shah says he will pay off the balance of the $143,600 developer discount loan if the city lifts its affordability limits and allows him to use the property as an unrestricted rental investment. If not, he says, the lender will foreclose on the address, putting the city out $100,000 and one affordable housing unit. If the city approves his request, it will receive the loan repayment but have to create another affordable housing unit elsewhere in the city.
  • The city is looking to update its parkland fees to reflect current real estate values, resulting in a 5 percent to 12.5 rate increase for housing developments.

WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. Another $1M in Airport expenses… Add it to the over $1B (that’s a B for billion) in debt taxpayers are saddled with since Rufas, Liccardo and so forth were elected. Remember though, it was pensions that nearly caused a fake Fiscal Emergency. SJC was (is?) supposed to be self-sufficient… By the way, the pension funds (whose managers are leaving for greener pastures) have more dollars in them than ever before- despite being incredibly mismanaged by Rufas’ appointees.

  2. Hahahahaha, Liccardo really does NOT have his finger on the pulse of the community.

    Where is the ACLU? The Drone had one camera – this network could have…..?

    • Fremont has had such a registration program in place for some time, and its residents love it. No big brother complaints because the cameras are all controlled by private parties on private property, and they provide access to law enforcement (or not) voluntarily. It’s apparently very effective in helping neighborhoods deal with burglaries. San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Vallejo too, apparently. Sounds like Liccardo is trying to pursue a program that’s already proven to be successful elsewhere.

      • Sounds like Liccardo is trying to pursue a program that’s already proven to be successful elsewhere….”Elsewhere” does not have a huge staffing/crime issue like Liccardo’s police department (San Jose) does…the cops already canvass or ask victims permission to use surveillance video for all sorts of crimes….this won’t solve or help San Jose in any way…More smoke and mirrors to distract the sheep of San Jose

      • “Sounds like Liccardo is trying to pursue a program that’s already proven to be successful elsewhere.”

        And probably hopes that people will give him the credit for coming up with it.

        • At least Sam put the program in play….

          Amazing how persons forget to take on the people who caused pension problem which has caused the situation…among them Sam’s opponent who, while he did not vote for the pension plan which enriched somebody, he was holding out for bigger payout for SJFD…check the minutes.

          It must be nice to create a problem, then when it explodes, slam the ones trying to make the best of the bad situation claiming “I’ll save the day”…as if.

  3. What is the point of this registry when the City and PD has absolutely no resources to investigate anything?! There are only two residential burglary investigators for this city of 1 million.

    And what’s this with Constant going to Arizona? A City audit last year dinged city departments for sending staff to training sessions in Arizona as it was a violation of City policy (something to do with AZ immigration policies or something). I didn’t think the City dropped this restriction.

    • Remember that the Honorable Constant , when asked why he did this or that, loves to respond with a regal and dismissive, “because I can.”

      • I suppose when we refer to Reed’s sunshine policies and initiatives, both Constant and Nguyen really take that seriously by traveling to Arizona, Hawaii and Miami on City time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *