The Private Security Camera System Incentive Program has created a network of more than 1,000 security cameras on homes and businesses to help Washington, D.C. law enforcement monitor crime.
The program, first proposed by Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) in 2015, provides rebates for property owners to purchase security cameras in exchange for registering them in a Metropolitan Police Department database. This exchange allows MPD to access video footage while investigating criminal activity with the permission of the property owner.
Similar programs have been implemented in cities including Chicago and Philadelphia, which both offer rebates for private residence owners to install security cameras.
Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants Special Assistant Christopher Dyer, who administers the program, said the office had approved over 1,100 applications and issued over 1,000 rebates totaling $380,000 as of Oct. 31.
“The program has gone pretty well so far,” Dyer said. “It’s been a very successful program, and we’ve had full participation in all eight wards.”
The Private Security Camera System Incentive Program refunds owners up to $200 per camera, with a maximum of $500 per residence and $750 per business or church. The D.C. Council allocated $500,000 to the program in 2015.
Dyer said OVSJG is looking to introduce a voucher program to address the D.C. residents who cannot afford to purchase a security camera and thus cannot qualify for a rebate.
“We want everyone in the city to be able to participate. We are in the process of investigating and hope to be launching a voucher program in the near future,” Dyer said. “The voucher program will help those who cannot afford to purchase a camera system.”
Bowser said the program has already fostered a safer climate in the District.
“I am thrilled that so many people have taken advantage of the program,” Bowser said in an Oct. 17 press release. “On multiple occasions since the program was launched, MPD has used camera video to aid in criminal investigations and the apprehension of suspects.”
The MPD reported 26,836 instances of property crime in 2015 and 25,744 instances in 2016 as of Nov. 17.
Georgetown University Police Chief Jay Gruber said MPD has long pressed for the security camera program, stressing its necessity for the safety and security of the D.C. community.
“MPD really does need this program,” Gruber wrote in an email to The Hoya. “The ability to gather evidence of a crime helps to increase the closure rate of crimes, making the city safer.”
Kunaal Singh (MSB ’20) said although police must ask for permission before accessing footage, he worries about potential for police to breach individuals’ privacy when investigating crimes.
“Privacy can be very much put in danger by this program, but I think you have to take into consideration that the government doesn’t make people participate in this program,” Singh said. “They get added protection and security. It’s very much like an economic cost-benefit analysis.”
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