CAMERA SAFETY

Mayor Bowser signed a bill to provide rebates for security camera systems on the exterior of certain buildings. (Courtesy photo)

Following recent legislation, D.C. residents can expect to see an increase in surveillance cameras on businesses, non-profits, religious institutions and homes.

Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the Private Security Camera System Incentive Program Emergency Act of 2016 into law Jan. 14, creating a community link to surveillance and crime solving.  The program provides rebates for the purchase and registration of security camera systems on the exterior of buildings owned or leased by a residents, businesses, nonprofits, or religious institutions.

“This law empowers members of our community to stop crime, and sends a clear message that we will no longer tolerate bad behavior anywhere in our city,” said Bowser.

But opponents of the legislation point out the invasive nature of the street surveillance and its potential for abuse at a time of  growing concerns over racial profiling.  “We can see how technology can help pinpoint actors in crimes, however, it can also unduly cast suspicion on innocent people,” Ward 8 resident Cornelius Grady told the AFRO.  “We don’t need ‘big brother’ watching us slowly chipping away at our civil and constitutional rights.

Others, like Grady’s daughter Sonia Graybill, who recently moved back to the city from Atlanta, said she fully supports the new legislation because crime in and around the District has reached historic highs. “I see a lot of young men who are aggressive and volatile.  The police cannot be everywhere at once and I think the community needs to be more responsible for the types of bad influences that we let grow unchecked under our feet,” Graybill said.  “If a camera positioned against my home can help deter crime in the neighborhood, I’d put up ten.”

Bower’s legislation grew out of a September 2015 public safety agenda that encouraged businesses and religious institutions, among others, to install security cameras.  Cameras would be registered with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and be used to identify potential culprits or persons of interest following a crime. Bowser said she hopes the cameras will help serve as a deterrent.

The program provides a rebate of up to $200 of the purchase price per camera installed on the exterior of a residential building, with a maximum rebate of up to $500 per residential address; and up to $200 of the purchase price per camera installed on the exterior of a business, commercial, nonprofit or religious institution with a maximum rebate of up to $750 per address. The city will not provide any additional funding for maintenance, replacement or upkeep.

The Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants, an agency within the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Cluster will serve as administrators of the program and facilitate officer requests for the video footage.  Bowser notes that there will be no live video access to the cameras. “I would still rather see police officers and detectives interact with communities face to face, rather than using technology, but we do have to do something to bring down the crime rates,” Grady said.  “I guess Bowser is giving us the most productive option.”

ssherman@afro.com