Imagine a world where police can watch a crime happen in real time. It's not quite Minority Report, but it's what Salt Lake City Police are hoping to do one day.
Under a new program, Safe Cam, they are able to connect to surveillance cameras around the city, enabling investigators to bring the scene of a crime straight to their computer screen.
"If we had a system in the community that helped all of us, I think it would be better," said Michael Stransky, president emeritus of GSBS Architects.
Stransky is one of about a dozen local business owners who have given police consent to access their surveillance cameras remotely, in the event of a crime.
"We are doing a good thing," said Stransky. "If it's illegal, it's being watched."
One of the seven cameras around his property in the Rio Grande District actually helped police locate a car tied to a homicide last winter.
"A car led us to suspects that led to an arrest. Instead of canvassing a neighborhood and looking for cameras and then trying to reach out to those businesses...we are going to have that information," said Detective Greg Wilking of the Salt Lake City Police Department.
The department started using Safe Cam two years ago. Their system is modeled after one being used by authorities in Philadelphia. However, the success in bigger cities is largely based on the number of businesses participating.
If more companies and residents consent, Wilking contends they could catch criminals more quickly. By tapping into a camera located at the scene of a crime, they can see what is happening at the location instantly. But if they have several accessible cameras, they can also see what's happening nearby, which can be useful when searching for a suspect.
"The more areas that we have covered with these kind of cameras the faster the investigations will go," he explained. "It's very significant."
There are two levels of Safe Cam that police offer. One allows them access to the footage recorded by a camera. The other prohibits them from accessing the video remotely, but tells them there is a camera in the vicinity of a crime. Police can then go request the footage in person.
Wilking hopes the options encourage more businesses to participate in the future.
"Getting that information out there is critical," he said.
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