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Baltimore City Council considering rebate program for security cameras

Posted at 5:50 PM, Jan 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-30 17:20:25-05

BALTIMORE — In an effort to help solve crimes in Baltimore, the city council is considering a rebate program for security cameras.

Councilman Eric Costello introduced the legislation earlier this week to give people up to $150 for installing a system, like Ring or Nest and registering it with the police department.

"This is optional. So, this something that citizens chose to opt into and even if the police department reached out and says 'hey, there was a crime next door. We think we caught the person on your camera, can we look at it?' The citizen still reserves the right to say no to the police department," Costello explained.

The camera would have to be registered on the Baltimore Police Department’s CitiWatch website and pointed at a public right of way.

Costello said there is already evidence that creating this network could help solve crimes in Baltimore. In September of 2018, Timothy Moriconi was murdered near his home in Federal Hill. His final moments were caught on private security footage and helped catch his killer.

"In this particular case, we had video surveillance that allowed us to try to connect the dots," said Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby.

And just last month, doorbell cameras recorded an assault near Patterson Park. A teenager picked up a woman as if to body slam her and stole her keys. Baltimore Police said they arrested three teens responsible with her assault and another one, in no small part because of the cameras that caught several angles of the group working the area.

"I think it's a good thing. I think the crime here in Federal Hill would warrant it. I couldn't see anything bad about it," said Jesse Penn, who works in Federal Hill.

"The peace of mind would come in with the fact that the people that are here everyday, the people that live and work the area, are having a direct connection to the security measures that are being enforced in the area," said Federal Hill resident Wayne Wolfe.

During a public safety committee hearing at City Hall Thursday, Costello proposed an amendment to allow for a voucher instead of a rebate.

A rebate would mean that after the customer proves they have met all the criteria, they will get the money. A voucher would mean the city would provide the money or camera up front and then the customer would be required to be in compliance with the criteria.

During the committee hearing, a representative for the Baltimore Police Department who oversees CitiWatch said if enacted, the benefits would be immediate. Right now, there are 780 CitiWatch cameras and 680 private cameras that have been registered.

Councilwoman Danielle McCray questioned the cost of this program.

The budget director for the city also spoke, saying he did not have any objections with the proposal but asked that it be a pilot program for FY 2020, and expanded in 2021 once they know what kind of a budget they will need.

A representative with the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice said they enthusiastically support the bill, saying a camera through the city costs about $6,000 and said this is an opportunity to expand and empower people. She also said there are several federal and state grant funding options should it pass.

Washington D.C. has had a similar program since 2016 and report that private footage reviewed by police contributed to two murder arrests.