Milton Police detective Nick Hendry wants to create a database of privately owned security cameras, and he’s inviting residents to sign up.

The Community Camera Program, which is voluntary, would add one more tool for officers seeking a suspect or looking for evidence that could lead to a conviction. As video surveillance technology becomes more affordable and more common, what used to be a multi-thousand-dollar investment is now something that is included in some cable TV packages, or purchased at wholesale prices at stores such as Costco, which makes such cameras ubiquitous in most communities.

“It’s really the new neighborhood watch,” said Hendry.

Hendry said officers today make it routine to ask any potential crime witnesses if they know of any video footage relating to the incident. Registering citizen cameras is a way to more quickly locate any particular camera that may have captured usable footage. 

Hendry said the program makes sure not to violate privacy or Fourth Amendment rights, in that officers would ask the registered camera owner for access to footage, should the need arise.

“So they can still say no to letting us see the footage,” he said. 

Hendry added that he does not want anyone’s login credentials for their security system; he just wants to know where cameras are and to be able to request footage. Still, he said some criminal investigations could give the police the authority to access camera footage without consent, but such a situation would require a search warrant.

Still, Hendry said a large group of residents are already on board to cooperate with law enforcement, if social media is any indication.

“In the past, I would go on Facebook and just ask generally if anyone has information regarding a particular crime, and the responses were overwhelming,” he said.

Hendry first made the program public Aug. 6 at the National Night Out event, and said at least 50 percent of the people he talked to said they own a video surveillance system.

While the program would give officers an extra tool in their crime fighting efforts, Hendry said it could also act as a deterrent to would-be criminals.

“These programs can make a town unattractive to people who commit crimes, once the word gets out” he said.

To register for the program, citizens can come into the police department at 37 Bombardier Rd and fill out a participation form.