San Jose eyes citizen cameras for security

San Jose is still reeling from the 5-day alleged arson attack by Patrick Brennan, the 48-year-old convicted arsonist charged last Friday with 10 counts of arson and three counts of attempted arson.

Now, San Jose is discussing a new security proposal that will create a video database for the San Jose Police Department fom local residents’ private security cameras, according to Mike Rosenberg of the San Jose Mercury News.

Sergeant Jason Kidwell identified the suspect based on video surveillance footage and witness sketches.

Despite witness sketches describing Brennan as a much younger man, Kidwell was able to pick Brennan out due to his lanky build and messy, gray-streaked hair.

Via the security images in the database, Kidwell alleged Brennan was starting fires between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. within a certain area — Brennan’s own neighborhood — giving Kidwell an idea as to the whereabouts of the convicted sex offender.

According to CBS-SF, San Jose police Sgt. Heather Randol said Brennan was previously convicted of setting 16 fires in Santa Clara County in 1999. Brennan could be sent to jail for life if convicted, prosecutors said.

Mayoral candidate and San Jose City Councilman Sam Liccardo wants to ensure that attacks like this do not happen again.

Liccardo’s proposal, announced today, would create a program where residents could ‘opt-in’ and register their security cameras with the San Jose Police Department in order to create a new video database.

Police officers would then be able to look at a map and remotely tap into a nearby camera after a crime has been committed.

The measure is also aimed to help the understaffed SJPD respond to incidents. Councilman Liccardo ensured the proposal is apolitical and that the database could be managed by current city technology employees.

For many, this can be seen as another unhealthy step towards relying on ‘big brother’ to monitor civilian activities.

But retired judge LaDoris Cordell, the city’s independent police auditor, believes the benefits are simple:

“You tend to behave when the cameras are on you.”

Officer Catherine Mann, of the Los Gatos/Monte Sereno Police Department which started its own database in 2013, emphasises that this is a service for the people, not the police:

“We’re not sitting around watching live videos from their home.”

San Jose would not be alone in its effort to better monitor its streets with the help of its civilian population. Chicago and Philadelphia have similar programs, and the surveillance initiative in the City of Brotherly Love assisted in some 200 arrests since it was launched two years ago.