Up & Coming Weekly

May 02, 2023

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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Page 9 of 24

WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM MAY 3 - 9, 2023 UCW 9 Fayetteville has a new way for residents to help address crime: a voluntary system that allows them to register and map their cameras to a database at the Fayetteville Police Department. e Police Department says the system, which doesn't give live access to camera footage, will help officers solve crime, and some residents agree. Others have concerns about privacy as police across the state and country increasingly use modern technology to monitor their communities. Earlier this month, FPD launched Fusus, the company that operates the camera monitoring system. To operate the system will cost taxpayers $100,000 annually, the Police Depart- ment says. e funding is part of the Police Department budget and was not specifically approved by the City Council but by City Manager Doug- las Hewett, according to the Police Department. e system, which is being used by police departments in Rocky Mount, Winston-Salem and Kernersville, is separated into two categories: busi- ness and residential. Both businesses and residents can voluntarily register any cameras they have on their property to the Police Department. is does not give police live access to camera footage but only maps the location of each registered camera. If a crime occurs within sight of a camera, police can ask to view the footage at the moment of the crime with the owner present. e owner of the camera, however, can deny that request. Businesses can opt to integrate their camera systems, meaning police would have live access to footage in the case of an emergency. In an interview with CityView, Fayetteville Police Chief Kemberle Braden emphasized that the residen- tial system is voluntary and does not give the police live access. "We're not asking you to plug in or grant us access; we just want to know where they are. So when we have an incident that occurs within our neigh- borhoods or within our communities, we know where to go and begin our canvass for potential video that might help with that crime," Braden said. As of April 21, businesses and resi- dents have registered 515 cameras in the system. Businesses have integrated 226 cameras. Cynthia Leeks, president of the Broadell/Seabrook Community Watch in a neighborhood near the Murchi- son Road corridor, said in an inter- view that she supports the residential camera system. She said she knows of at least seven residents in the area that plan to register their cameras in the system. "As a community, in order to help the police prevent crime, we have to play our role. And that's a part of com- munity policing," Leeks said. Months before the Police Depart- ment launched its system with Fusus, the Broadell/Seabrook Community Watch was awarded a microgrant by the city that will fund the purchase of four cameras that residents will install on their property in what Police Department has identified as high- crime areas. Johnette Henderson, secretary of the Broadell/Seabrook Community Watch, said in an interview that the organization will use the crime data to place cameras where it has seen instances of speeding and other crimi- nal violations. "We're totally in support of it be- cause we think it's a good idea," said Henderson. Privacy concerns Fusus is the second monitoring system that the city of Fayetteville has contracted with in recent months. Late last year, the city finalized a nearly $200,000 one-year contract with ShotSpotter. While Fusus makes use of video technology, ShotSpotter uses microphones — the company calls them "acoustic sensors" — to detect loud noises such as gunshots. ShotSpotter then uses artificial intel- ligence to identify the location of the gunshot in real time. Amid concerns of privacy, the contract with ShotSpotter caused controversy among some residents of Fayetteville, Carolina Public Press reported. Braden said the residen- tial camera registration under Fusus should not create the same concerns. "All it does is it shows us where cam- eras are. So we know where to knock on doors for those private cameras," Braden said. "We're not asking private citizens to install hardware on their cameras. We're just asking them to let us know you've got a camera. So, if something occurs, we know where to go." While the Fusus system is voluntary and requires owner consent to view camera footage, the Police Depart- ment is partnered with a similar system with Amazon's Ring cameras. Amazon, in partnering with police departments across the country, noti- fies police through its Ring system of a crime occurring near the presence of Ring cameras. According to Fayetteville police, this system operates similarly to Fusus but instead of knowing exactly where a camera is located, it maps the crime within a certain radius. Police can then request, through the Ring Neigh- bors app, that residents show them footage, but the owners can deny that request. According to reporting from Politico last year, some police departments have bypassed permission, but the Fayetteville Police Department said it has not acquired footage without the owner's consent. Fayetteville resident Lisette Ro- driguez, an activist and community organizer, said she is concerned about the growing trend in police and gov- ernment surveillance. "I do have concerns about how our government does not necessarily have any safeguards in place to protect our digital privacy with all these cameras around, with things like ShotSpotter. And I worry about how this informa- tion could be used," Rodriguez said. She said she is even concerned about private cameras facing away from the owner's property. "When I was living in an apartment, there was a Ring camera that my neighbor had," Rodriguez said. "It was aimed directly at my door. So I knew, even though I wasn't doing anything wrong, it kind of made me a little bit uncomfortable, knowing that every time I opened my door, that person's camera is there, seeing inside my home, seeing who comes to my home." Transparency concerns e Police Department's partner- ship with Fusus will cost Fayetteville taxpayers $100,000 annually. When asked if a process should be in place to monitor the system's usage like an au- dit, Braden said that is not necessary. "What process should be in place where that if you voluntarily tell me, 'I have a camera at my house.' Just me knowing you have a camera, how am I going to abuse that or misuse that information?" Braden said. Leeks said there should be some measures in place to make sure the system is working. "Make sure, because somebody's paying for this program, and I guaran- tee you, it is the taxpayers," Leeks said. "When they roll out new programs like this, you have to have some kind of matrix system to determine if it's working." Rodriguez, who has called for a separate city department that holds the Fayetteville Police accountable, said residents should monitor the Fusus system. "So often, the police are overseeing the police," Rodriguez said. "I would like to see some type of outside body who is helping formulate these safe- guards." NEWS Residential camera system aims to solve crimes but raises privacy concerns by BEN SESSOMS, CityView Today BEN SESSOMS, City View Today. COMMENTS? Editor@upandcom- ingweekly.com 910-484-6200. e Fayetteville Police Department began using a camera monitoring system in April that allows residents and businesses to register their security cameras with the FPD. e system enables law enforcement to identify potential video footage when a crime takes place in the vicinity. (File photo)

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