Security Camera Registries in Ontario eg. CAMSafe

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| Published , updated December 12, 2023

What is a security camera registry?

Security camera registries such as CAMSafe are a database of closed-circuit (CCTV), security video cameras and doorbell camera locations across Ontario that residents and businesses have voluntarily added their own security cameras to. Police Services can use a Google Maps-style lookup tool on their phone, in their vehicle, or in their work station to search if there are any cameras near an incident and use the contact information in the registry to request video from the owner.

Self-described as “Neighbourhood Watch 2.0” police say registries are meant to provide a starting point for officers to find video footage in a timely fashion from community members that may be able to assist with an investigation, leading to quicker response times and investigations.

Launched in June 2021, CAMSafe is a borderless, not-for-profit program owned and operated by Belleville Police Services and the brainchild of Sgt. Jeremy Ashley, a Forensic Identification Officer with the Belleville Police Service. who took inspiration from similar projects in Red Deer Alberta (reddeercapture.ca) and in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia (safecam.phillypolice.com). It was created with primary sponsor Alarm Systems (260 Adam Street Belleville, ON K8N 5S4), a local family owned and operated Security Integration company and local web designers Floating Point.

How does a security camera registry like CAMSafe work?

When the police receive a call about an incident, the investigating officer can use a Google Maps-style app to see if there are any registered security cameras nearby. They can then request the footage using the contact information provided by the registrant.

Each registered camera has a profile including its location, contact information and optional details provided like the direction it faces, what it can see, footage retention details or screenshots of the camera view. Registrants can view their information and delete or change their information at any time.

According to the police, registries are helpful with:

  • Break and enters
  • Theft
  • Kidnappings
  • Homicides
  • Robberies
  • Assaults

There is no cost to the community or police service who use CAMSafe.

CAMSafe timeline

  • In 2020, Alarm Systems partnered with Belleville Police Service and a local web designer to develop a separate, innovative website to house the initiative.
  • July 16, 2021 – Belleville Police Services Board sent a letter to City Council requesting them to consider adding City operated security cameras to to the Belleville Police Service CAMSafe program.
  • September 13, 2021 – Council received the letter and referred it to staff.
  • In 2022 the program’s expansion outside of the Belleville area picked up speed as word spread about the impact it was having on community safety and security.
  • In 2023, the OPP formally rolled out CAMSafe to all detachments across the province. 

Can the police see camera footage in real time?

No, signing up with a security camera registry like CAMSafe does NOT give police access to see or access your camera’s video feed, only the contact information you provide.

Can the police/courts compel me to release camera footage?

No, and yes.

No – a spokesperson for the Toronto Police Service told CTV News Toronto if a home or business has a video doorbell or security camera, police may request for its footage for their investigation, but the property owner does not have to provide it.

Yesaccording to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) the police can produce a warrant to compel you to provide the footage from your camera. If your video footage is stored on the cloud or company’s servers, as is the case for many doorbell cameras, police can request it through the company without your consent.

In this way, security camera registries can act as a sort of directory of potential sources of data to produce a warrant for.

Terms and conditions vary by company:

  • Ring (Amazon) – Does not disclose customer information in response to government demands unless required to do so to comply with a legally valid and binding order. They publish Law Enforcement Information Request reports on their website.
  • Nest (Google) – May provide information to government agencies without a warrant if they reasonably believe that we can prevent someone from dying or from suffering serious physical harm, we may provide information to a government agency – for example, in the case of bomb threats, school shootings, kidnappings, suicide prevention and missing persons cases. We still consider these requests in light of applicable laws and our policies.
  • Eufy – Disclose Personal Data to any relevant party, regulatory body, governmental authority, law enforcement agency or court, to the extent necessary for the establishment, exercise or defence of legal claims or any relevant party, regulatory body, governmental authority, law enforcement agency or court, for the purposes of prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of criminal offences or the execution of criminal penalties;
  • Arlo – Provide Arlo customer Information, including videos, to law enforcement only if legally required to do so. If we have been required to provide your Arlo videos in response to a legally-enforceable search warrant or court order then law enforcement may view the videos and Information.

How many cameras are in the CAMSafe directory?

Hundreds of residents, businesses, schools, and municipal agencies have signed up cameras clear across the province, building the foundation of a database of information and users that can be used by any police service involved.

Where are the cameras in the CAMSafe directory located?

A Freedom of Information request has been filed to answer this question and this section will be updated with the response received.

Feedback from stakeholders

Mayor Mitch Panciuk praised the initiative, saying it will not only help to apprehend criminals and rescue people much sooner from the beginning of a call, but it also can help the city successfully prosecute individuals using the evidence.

Sometimes eyewitnesses are great because they’ve seen (an incident), but sometimes eyewitness recollection isn’t always so accurate,

To be able to back it up with this type of footage is going to be great.

Mayor Mitch Panciuk

I think you have to be very careful. We do not want to become a surveillance society.

If you enjoy living in a free and open society, then you value privacy. We need to protect it.

former Ontario privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian

What municipalities in Ontario are using CAMSafe?

Other security camera registries in Ontario

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