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Albany County legislators propose linking private security cameras in SafeCam Program

“The Albany County Safe Cam program will empower residents to play an active role in making their communities safer," said Legislator Sam Fein.
Dave Lucas
“The Albany County Safe Cam program will empower residents to play an active role in making their communities safer," said Legislator Sam Fein.

Two Albany County Legislators are proposing establishing a countywide SafeCam program to help law enforcement investigate crime.

SafeCam programs allow authorities access to footage recorded by private security systems for use in crime-solving.

Albany County Legislator Sam Fein, a Democrat from the 6th district, co-sponsored the measure, introduced by fellow-Democrat Beroro Efekoro of the 7th, which would entail voluntary registration of home cameras with the Albany County Sheriff, giving residents the ability to share footage with local law enforcement.

"This program would allow people to register their privately owned security cameras with the sheriff's office," Fein said. "Then if a crime occurs, the sheriff will basically have a database of all of the cameras for people who voluntary registered and then contact that individual and obtain the footage.”

Should a crime occur in any given neighborhood, law enforcement could double-check their SafeCam list to see if there are any cameras in that area from which they might draw some evidence. Systems are not monitored; there is no way authorities can connect to them directly.

"The good thing about this program is that it doesn't give law enforcement, continuous access, or any access to people's cameras, because I think that's, you know, a security and privacy concern for people," Fein said. "So what it does is creates a database of where the cameras are, and people volunteer to share their footage that will be stored on their own hard drive or their own cloud. So they're volunteering to share that with law enforcement, if there's a crime, but law enforcement is not going to have any access to their camera."

SafeCam programs are already running in many municipalities, including the city of Troy, which launched its project in 2016. City Council President Carmella Mantello, a Republican mayoral candidate, says the program has forged a police-community partnership for tackling neighborhood crime.

“The program is alive, people are still registering their private security systems with the police force, which is fabulous and fantastic, and really needed,” said Mantello.

Mantello says there is now a companion program that Troy detectives have begun to implement: "They will actually go to a residence or business to assist them with the setup, and the customization of their security cameras."

Back in Albany County, Fein says the SafeCam measure was sent to the Law Committee and Public Safety Committee.

“You know, so far, we've gotten positive feedback, both from other legislators from the sheriff, who we worked with to develop this program, and from the community," Fein said. "So I'm expecting that we'll have the support to get it through, and then the earliest it could be voted on is next month, and we hope to get this program rolling as soon as possible. We want to do outreach and make sure that, you know, people are aware of it. And I think it's something that people will embrace, once they recognize the impact that can have, you know, cameras can also be a deterrent to crime. People want to feel safe in their communities, people are concerned about, you know, the rise in crime and violence. And this is one of many ways that we were many actions that we need to take to address this issue.”

The Albany County Sheriff's office did not return a request for comment.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.