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Chesapeake joins ranks of locales using surveillance cameras

"Eye in the sky" is what some TV stations call the helicopters they use to get airborne shots of news events. At one time, this was considered pretty high tech stuff. These days, though, camera technology is so cheap and easy to come by that police departments have started to deploy their own eye in the sky systems.

Around our region, Norfolk and Virginia Beach are known to have camera systems in place. Virginia Beach police have reportedly had one operating along the Oceanfront for about 20 years. Officials say it might be used to support enforcement and prosecution of criminal charges about 50 times a year.

Now, the Chesapeake Police Department has joined the ranks of communities with such a system. A question that may be worth asking from a legal perspective is whether the technology represents an unwarranted invasion of privacy?

That doesn't seem to be a concern for supporters of the cameras. They say they expect the system to serve as a deterrent to crime -- making potential perpetrators think twice before they act.

Officials say it's too soon to know if the system is working. There are only three cameras in operation. Two are stationary, one is portable, and they have only been in service for a few months. But police are also testing a new program called "Cameras Used to Stop Thieves, Offenders, and Delinquents in Your area," or CUSTODY.

According to the Chesapeake city website, CUSTODY allows businesses and residents who have private surveillance systems to voluntarily share the information collected with authorities. The city says the objective is to prevent crime and provide possible evidence when a crime is suspected.

Whether such information should be acceptable in court is something that will likely be challenged by experienced attorneys as cases warrant.

Source: The Virginian-Pilot, "Chesapeake latest to use police surveillance cameras," Mike Connors, Jan. 23, 2014

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