Councilwoman proposes paying Richmond residents to use security cameras

RICHMOND, Va. -- More homeowners are installing security cameras to catch criminals. Now Richmond City Council member Kristen Larson wants to take advantage of the trend, and proposes having the city pay residents and business owners for installing security cameras to help the Richmond Police Department solves cases.

“Videos have led to arrests and convictions,” Larson said. “This is just an extra layer to encourage folks to do this and also to give them something to return.”

The councilwoman proposed an amendment to the city’s budget that would create a $50,000 pilot program. She says the funds would be broken up into $100 rebates for 500 participants.

“They go into a database and so if a crime is committed in that area, the police can easily access it and say ‘Oh, we have five folks on that road that we automatically have access to,'" Larson said.

At a budget work session Monday, Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham spoke to council members about the proposal. He said in his preliminary research, the police departments in Washington, D.C. and Detroit, Michigan had similar programs.

Durham then went onto say he would consider following the D.C. model, which is monitored and implemented by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“We have to use technology in the police department and our neighborhoods and communities to reduce crimes of violence,” Durham said.

According to the police chief, the department has installed 13 cameras in Gilpin Court and three in Mosby Court within the last six months. They also have full access to six cameras in Shockoe Bottom through a public-private partnership with the business association in that area.

Larson says Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Herring is also open to the idea.

“Ultimately, the devil is in the details, but I think it’s an idea worth investing some time and research into because we can’t have cameras everywhere, yet cameras and film are one of the easiest ways to prosecute people,” Larson said.

Other city council members – including Chris Hilbert and Reva Trammell – had questions and concerns about the proposal during Monday’s work session.

Hilbert said, “It seems like to me this would be a public safety issue relative to making these applications public and someone knowing where the cameras are, avoiding that area, and pushing issues and problems to other areas.”

CBS 6 reached out to the ACLU of Virginia about the proposed amendment. Director of Strategic Communications Bill Farrar said they strongly oppose government surveillance in public spaces. He claims there is nothing to suggest it will reduce crime and it could lead to an abuse of power. Farrar compared the issue to surveillance at the Virginia Beach oceanfront. Back in October, the ACLU of Virginia sent a letter to Virginia Beach City Council expressing its opposition to the plan.

Richmond resident Marc Goswick has lived in his home on the city’s southside since 1997 and says he’s seen an uptick in crime.

“I just think it’s kind of gotten out of hand,” Goswick said. “We’ve had abandoned cars where they’ve been stolen. I’ve had stuff stolen off my porch.”

He says he’s willing to hand over surveillance video, if it helps make his neighborhood safer.

“I kind of think that would be my duty to help, especially if someone got hurt. I would want to help as much as I possibly could,” Goswick said.

Richmond City Council will talk more about the proposal during their upcoming meeting on Monday.