The Manchester, New Hampshire, police department is trying to recruit local businesses and the general public into a large-scale video surveillance scheme. The police are specifically hoping to deploy a video management system from Fusus that gives them real-time access to video footage from cameras located throughout the city.
That includes the security cameras maintained by private businesses, and the security cameras installed on people’s homes. Those who already own cameras would be able to give the police direct access to their feeds, while those who want to opt in would need to pay $250 for a four-camera set-up that is compatible with the system.
According to the police, the Fusus system would streamline the current investigation process, in which police knock on doors to ask for security footage. The police stated that such a request has never been denied, so gaining direct access would simply eliminate the need for an in-person visit when they are looking into a crime. The police would need to send an email to let camera owners know what time period they are interested in examining.
Privacy advocates, meanwhile, believe that the system is a massive overreach that extends the surveillance state into private residences. The Manchester police tried to assuage some of those concerns, noting that homeowners are still able to determine what the police do and do not have access to, and can withhold footage that is not explicitly requested. The police also stressed that homeowners would need to be coached about what is and is not permitted with a surveillance camera. For example, residents are not permitted to point their camera at someone else’s backyard, and must keep cameras trained on more public areas.
Having said that, the police would still have access to real-time footage from those who opt-in. Some organizations (such as the Manchester schools) have indicated that they would only give the police live access when they are responding to crisis situations or some other high-priority call, but the Fusus system is nevertheless an extremely powerful surveillance tool.
The police have promised that they will introduce a formal policy for the use of the system, and claimed that the feeds would not be monitored unless necessary. FususAI does not have facial recognition capabilities, though it does use computer vision to track objects like cars or backpacks. The police also cannot use the system to perform searches based on race. The police are hoping to present the policy before the end of the summer, and stressed that every stored video would be linked to a case number for auditing purposes.
If deployed, the Fusus system would integrate 285 cameras at city buildings like libraries and City Hall in addition to those at private establishments. The program would be funded through a grant or city-authorized debt, though officials have yet to detail the expected cost. The New Hampshire State Police are already using the system in a limited capacity, though it has not yet been deployed in any other municipalities in the state.
Source: Government Technology
June 6, 2022 – by Eric Weiss