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City leaders encourage public to share surveillance camera location, access

Milwaukee Police have put out a call, asking people with surveillance cameras to join a registry and even share their surveillance video with them.
Posted at 1:46 PM, Aug 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-10 18:30:26-04

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Police have put out a call, asking people with surveillance cameras to join a registry and even share their surveillance video with them.

"Another opportunity to be part of the solution," said Police Chief Jeffrey Norman at a press conference on Thursday.

The new program, Community Connect Milwaukee, is two-tiered.

Police are asking anyone, such as business owners, with cameras to join a registry that shares their location, but not necessarily access to cameras.

Milwaukee Police is now also partnering with Fusus, a company that touts its technology as a "Real-Time Crime Center in the Cloud."

Through Fusus equipment, people with existing surveillance cameras can integrate with the Milwaukee Police Fusion Center.

"Real information, real-time information. Better descriptions. This is a partnership. This is not something the police department has forced upon anyone," said Chief Norman. "This is not about over-policing, this is not about using facial recognition."

Paul Schwartz, the executive director of Milwaukee Public Market and Business Improvement District #2, said they have roughly 130 cameras throughout the district. He said they plan to give police access to live feeds.

"We've done so because we don't want any of that economic growth to be stunted by criminal activity that can't be investigated and prosecuted," said Schwartz.

According to Norman, partnership is strictly voluntary. Carlo Capano, with Fusus, explained that if someone integrates with their tech and MPD, that person still has full, customizable control of what video they share with police. That could be a 24/7 live stream or simply recorded videos, according to Capano.

The upshot, Capano said, is that this streamlines the sharing process and gives police much quicker access when investigating.

At the press conference, Mayor Cavalier Johnson said he expects people to ask questions about privacy.

"Is this some sort of dystopian technology that infringes on rights and privacy, and the answer to that question is no. These are cameras that are already out there, that are present all over Milwaukee. Police investigators frequently seek images from those cameras to establish facts and identify criminals," said Johnson.

Technology like this has raised privacy concerns nationwide, according to Beryl Lipton, an investigative researcher with Electronic Frontier Foundation.

"Simply because the owner of a grocery store has said law enforcement can have live access to those cameras, that doesn't mean that I, as a consumer, have consented to having my likeness identified and captured and stored and later analyzed," said Lipton.

She said this should be a community discussion, with law enforcement open to answering questions. Lipton also said there needs to be an audit mechanism in place — even something as basic as monitoring logins — to make sure police aren't misusing any of the video.

"I would say the vast majority of law enforcement officers are not going to mistreat this type of technology and access," said Lipton. "But we’ve absolutely seen in other surveillance context, that when law enforcement officers, who are just humans also, have access to that really sensitive type of information, that sometimes it does get abused. Sometimes individuals will access that information for private reasons."

Tim Muth, with Wisconsin ACLU, suggested greater police access to cameras won't necessarily help build trust with the community.

"The police are always going to use fear of crime as a way of generating their ability to purchase more equipment. More technology. And unfortunately, I mean, that is a technique that sells and we now have a greater and greater surveillance state with unfortunately relatively oversight of how the tech is going to get used," said Muth.

According to Milwaukee Police, private donors, including the Milwaukee Police Foundation, paid for the technology.

The department said it costs $125,000 a year to work with Fusus and police hope private donations will continue to cover the cost.

Read MPD's statement below:

Release Date Thursday, August 10, 2023

MPD Launches Community Connect Milwaukee Program Powered by Fusus 

MILWAUKEE, WI – Today, Thursday, August 10, 2023—The Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) announced the official launch of its latest public safety initiative, Community Connect Milwaukee—a Real Time Crime Center in the Cloud platform designed to provide critical and actionable information that will help the department respond more efficiently to incidents, assist in expediting investigations, enhance emergency preparedness, and keep residents and businesses safer. Powered by Fusus, the new platform includes a Public Security Camera Registry—an online portal for the public to register their security cameras in order to help solve neighborhood crimes. MPD held an informative meeting with the Business Improvement Districts prior to integrating this platform and obtained feedback that will be implemented. MPD is urging community members to register their cameras and help create a community-wide public safety ecosystem.

“Building real partnerships between our residents, businesses and our police department is the key to a successful public safety landscape,” said Chief Jeffrey Norman. “Community Connect Milwaukee will enable us to operate more efficiently to create a safer city for our residents. I strongly urge all the security camera owners in the community to take part in this new program.”

By setting up a voluntary camera registration process, it enables investigators to know almost immediately if video evidence might be available at a particular location and who to contact to retrieve it. Residents wanting to register a camera with MPD is quickly and easily done through the self-service portal at Camera Registration - Community Connect Milwaukee. []

“I have asked everyone in Milwaukee to be part of our efforts to improve public safety. This is one way for residents to take part and make a difference,” Mayor Cavalier Johnson said. “Milwaukee will be a safer city as efforts like this take hold.”

In addition to the camera registry, the Milwaukee Police Department is offering businesses the option to integrate their video security systems to include live video feeds to the department. By businesses installing a small CORE device on their network, businesses can share live video feeds with the department. To preserve privacy, live video can optionally be shared only on alert, using a smart phone app or manual trigger button, at the camera owner’s discretion. There is a cost associated with the Fusus hardware based on camera feeds.

Camera registration does not give live video access to the Milwaukee Police Department, it only gives them camera location information for use when an incident occurs. Investigators will contact camera owners only if they need assistance collecting camera footage. Any video files provided will be kept confidential and only used in the event of a criminal investigation.

To register or integrate your camera system with the Milwaukee Police Department or to learn more about Community Connect Milwaukee, please visit Community Connect Milwaukee [] and follow the instructions.

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