The Security Camera Rebate program started two years ago after the DC Council passed the “Private Security Camera Incentive Program Emergency Act of 2016.” The program provides financial rebates to residents, businesses and churches who purchase outdoor security cameras and who make the recordings available to MPD upon request. Since the program started, DC has funded 10,000 cameras from 4,500 requests across the city, mainly to residents.
Rebates are up to $500 per home or $750 for businesses and churches ($200 per camera). The benefits of an outdoor camera are the ability to see when people come to your home, at night or during the day. To get the rebate, you have to register that you have a camera with MPD, who then theoretically might have a better ability to deal with street-level crime, from violent offenses to property damage and theft. (You can refuse a request to turn over video to MPD...)
In the Petworth area, Police Service Area 407 has had 182 rebates given, while PSA 404 had 150 and PSA 403 had 113. Citywide, 3,474 residents accepted a rebate, while only 99 businesses did. Non-profits accepted 26 rebates, while religious institutions had 16 rebates.
According to the most recent public report from February 2018, MPD requested footage twice for that month, four times in January.
"There were two documented requests for footage by MPD from program recipients that were successfully extracted. MPD detectives may also be in direct contact with a program recipient without that information being specifically tracked."
"There were two new documented arrests made as a result of private security cameras in this program. One for Theft II and one for Murder, MPD detectives may have used footage that was directly obtained by direct contact with program participants without that information being specifically tracked."
Interestingly, one of the responses in the December report says that tracking the usage of the video from the cameras isn't simple, and isn't one of their core focus points:
"It is difficult for MPD to track and report on this data. For one, there is often a significant amount of time between when a video is pulled and an arrest is made. In cases for which video is pulled, reviewed, and found to contain something of value, MPD will seek a warrant and potentially go through a grand jury process. Moreover, there is a range of ways in which video footage can contribute to an arrest. Many of these do not involve a suspect caught on camera, but rather a witness or perhaps a person or vehicle of interest. Lastly, detectives are not personally tracking whether a camera is an MPD- owned camera, a government camera, a private security camera, or a private security camera owned by a rebate recipient. Tracking this information is not part of their core function. Establishing a system to track the specific utility of video and the type of camera that recorded it until an arrest is actually made is not an efficient use of law enforcement resources better directed at investigating crime. Therefore, MPD is unable to provide comprehensive data on this."
Providing MPD with access to thousands of security cameras scattered around the city can be a big benefit to the police. In other ways, one of the program's biggest benefits is directly for residents, providing peace-of-mind as they monitor their homes for anything from the mundane (package delivery, dog-walkers) to the more serious crime issues (package thefts, etc.).
More information on the program, how to submit a rebate request and some recommendations on cameras, is available on this updated article: