More than 20 Brookhaven residents have signed up for “Operation Plugged In” and agreed to provide police with access to their home video surveillance systems, if the images are needed for a criminal investigation.
The program has been in the works for several months. Last month, the city posted registration forms on the Brookhaven website to allow those who want to participate to sign up.
“Operation Plugged In is a great tool for us to utilize after a crime has occurred,” Chief Gary Yandura said in a statement. “It has already helped us clear up some burglary and auto theft cases.”
Brookhaven Police Officer Carlos Nino, spokesperson for the department, could not provide specific examples of the crimes solved thanks to the video surveillance.
Nino stressed the program is completely voluntary and that police do not have live access to homeowners’ cameras to watch live feeds.
“This is not Big Brother in your living room,” he said.
The surveillance video will be accessed by the department only after a request to a homeowner, or business owner, after a crime has been committed in the area where the cameras are located, he said. Officers can then view the video and search for clues — such as license plate numbers or suspect identification – that can help solve a crime, such as a home invasion or business robbery.
Nino said plans are to plot where the cameras are on a map so officers can know where surveillance cameras are available.
Police are pleased with homeowner interest in the program, but especially are interested in getting business owners to participate, Nino said.
The program would work by allowing businesses and residents to register their cameras online with the police department and then give the department the passwords to their websites that stream the surveillance footage. Only the police department would have access to the footage, Yandura told Brookhaven City Council during an August work session.
There is no plan at this time to have an officer dedicated to watching the cameras live, Yandura said, but the ability to do so is possible. The department would archive the footage. Nino said depending on how long an investigation takes place, the footage could be stored for one or two years.
Police currently have a surveillance camera located across the bridge on Colonial Drive that leads to the Brookhaven Heights neighborhood. Officers can watch a live feed of that camera if they want to. Nino said that camera, requested by the neighborhood, was the pilot program for Operation Plugged In.
Participants will be provided with a small sticker for those wishing to place them on their property, such as on a window or a door, to let potential criminals know they are being watched as a way to help deter crime, Nino said.
For more information about Operation Plugged In, call 404-637-0600. Registration forms to be part of Operation Plugged In are located on the city’s website at brookhavenga.gov/public-safety/operation-plugged-in.