Surrey residents urged to register security cameras with city to aid police

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Surrey residents urged to register security cameras with city to aid police
WATCH: Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers is encouraging residents of Surrey to register their security cameras with the city -- creating a go-to list of potential video sources investigators can turn to when crime happens. Janet Brown reports – Jun 13, 2023

Do you have a home security camera or a smart doorbell?

If the answer is yes and you live in Surrey, B.C., you’re being encouraged to register the device with the city, as police increasingly rely on the tools to help solve crimes.

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Footage appears to capture horrific drive-by shooting in Surrey

Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers executive director and Surrey City Coun. Linda Annis made the appeal Tuesday, touting Surrey’s Project IRIS.

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“Residents can register their video cameras so that police don’t have to go knocking door to door, which takes a lot of time and a lot of manpower to get video footage,” Annis said.

Project IRIS is a confidential database operated by the City of Surrey with a list of registered home security systems and contact information for their owners.

In the case of a crime in the neighbourhood, police can ask the city for a list of cameras in the area, then reach out directly to camera owners.

The database does not actually collect any video footage itself and is not directly connected to any cameras. Police must get consent from the camera owners to collect the footage, and participants can quit at any time.

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North Vancouver RCMP operate a similar program called Project Optic.

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“If there’s something that happens in your neighbourhood police are aware immediately who has cameras and will call you to ask if they can get your footage,” Annis said.

“As we know the police can’t be everywhere. Particularly in Surrey, it’s such a large city, the more footage and the more help the police can get the better off we will be.”

Surrey RCMP spokesperson Const. Vanessa Munn told Global News that the proliferation of affordable security cameras has meant footage increasingly plays a key role as evidence.

“Video surveillance is a huge part of many of our investigations, it allows us to determine what actually occurred, when specifically it occurred, and in many instances ID the suspects involved,” she said.

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“Doorbell cameras, surprisingly, provide very good quality video and have definitely provided evidence to advance some of our investigations and led to arrests.”

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Even with a registry, Munn said officers must still pound the pavement to canvass for witnesses or evidence after a crime. But she said often when they identify security cameras they must return to a home multiple times to make contact with the owner.

With time of the essence in solving certain crimes, being able to directly contact the camera owner means police can quickly gain access to potentially key footage.

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