Legislation sponsored by Ralph Caputo, Thomas Giblin, Cleopatra Tucker, Gordon Johnson, Charles Mainor and Shavonda Sumter to make it easier for law enforcement agencies to use outdoor video cameras to investigate crimes was signed into law this week.
The new law (A-3843) will allow a municipality to enact an ordinance establishing a private outdoor video surveillance camera registry, and will allow any owner of a private outdoor video surveillance camera to voluntarily register the camera with the municipal police department or force.
“This will help law enforcement officials with investigations of criminal activity and save valuable time and resources by providing them with a registry to determine whether a camera is located near where criminal activity occurred,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “We’ve seen many cases where captured footage has assisted an investigation, including the recent abduction in Philadelphia. Providing police with a registry like this will make that assistance more common, and that can only be a good thing for public safety.”
Any ordinance enacted under the law must require the following information to be provided in the municipal registry:
· The name of the person who owns a private outdoor video surveillance camera;
· The person’s most recent contact information, including a street address and telephone number;
· The street address where the camera is located;
· Information on how the camera’s footage is saved or stored and the duration of time the footage is saved or stored; and
· Any other information the municipality deems necessary.
“Surveillance camera videos can be valuable tools in a police investigation,” said Giblin (D-Essex/Passaic). “Having an existing registry that law enforcement officers can tap into when investigating criminal activity saves time, which is crucial when working against the clock.”
“TV cops may be able to solve a crime in the span of an hour, but in real life, police investigations can move slowly, especially when there are few leads,” said Tucker (D-Essex). “This provides police with another tool to help make their jobs easier and help bring offenders to justice.”
“Timing is everything when investigating crime,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “Surveillance footage can provide police with valuable information. The quicker law enforcement can get access to a video that captured criminal activity, the better the chance of apprehending the offender.”
“Without witnesses or helpful evidence, a criminal investigation can quickly become stagnant,” said Mainor (D-Hudson). “This is an efficient way to help our local police departments get access to surveillance video that can help solve a case; or at the very least help move an investigation along.”
“Criminal investigations take time,” said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Having a registry allows officers to dedicate more time on actually finding a suspect, instead of spending precious initial time figuring out where there might be a surveillance camera that may be useful to their investigation.”
Under the law, a “private outdoor video surveillance camera” is defined as a device installed outside a residence or business that captures footage of the area outside the residence or business for security purposes.
The law further stipulates that information contained in a municipal private outdoor video surveillance camera registry is to be made available only to law enforcement officials investigating criminal activity and will not be considered a public record.
A state, county, or municipal law enforcement agency is authorized to contact a person who registered a private outdoor video surveillance camera in order to request access to footage that may be useful to a criminal investigation. A person who registers a camera may voluntarily submit the camera’s footage to a law enforcement agency, but would not be required to do so under the law.