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NYC initiative allows retail owners to share live surveillance footage with NYPD in effort to curb theft

“[The program] launches more efficient investigations, builds stronger cases and leads to more effective prosecutions,” NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban said


Bernhard Richter/Dreamstime/TNS

By Michael Gartland
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — Mayor Adams announced Thursday that the NYPD will expand an initiative allowing businesses to feed security camera footage directly to the police department – an effort aimed at curbing the surge in shoplifting that’s plagued the city since the COVID pandemic.

The pilot program will be rolled out for the first time in nine police precincts – in addition to 109th Precinct in Queens where it was first unveiled last June as part of a proof-of-concept partnership with the company Fusus by Axon, which is providing the technology.

“Through existing closed-circuit security cameras, this tech will allow information to be shared between businesses and the NYPD faster than ever before,” Adams said at a press conference in Harlem. “It will allow us to gather real-time intelligence on retail crimes and apprehend the criminals responsible.”

The mayor predicted the new program would make fighting retail theft more efficient and “improve community relations between local police precincts and the New Yorkers they serve.”

As it now stands for most precincts, when police respond to a complaint about shoplifting, to view security camera footage they must recover it from the scene of the crime. Under the new program, police will be able to access the footage remotely from the precinct before arriving at the scene, which could give them a headstart on identifying and arresting suspects.

“The capability of business owners to share information with detectives quickly and seamlessly is key,” NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban said. “It launches more efficient investigations, builds stronger cases and leads to more effective prosecutions.”

Businesses within the confines of the nine precincts selected for the pilot, as well as the 109th Precinct, are not required to provide the NYPD access to their footage. If interested, they can opt in through a city portal. From there, city officials said, they have the option of giving the police unfettered access to their security cameras, or can limit the number of cameras and hours they provide access to.

When asked which precincts are included in the pilot, a spokesperson for Adams did not immediately respond. The program is expected to cost taxpayers approximately $1.5 million, according to the NYPD.

Shoplifting complaints have vexed Adams’ administration since he stepped into City Hall in January 2022, with businesses complaining that theft has significantly cut into their bottom lines; some have closed up shop altogether.

According to NYPD crime data, retail theft has jumped 5% over the last year alone, with 21,578 complaints coming in over the last 365 days, compared to 20,552 in the prior year-to-date span.

A significant goal of the city’s new pilot program is to shorten the time between the crime being reported and an arrest. NYPD Chief of Crime Control Strategies Michael Lipetri noted that well over 50% of shoplifting cases that result in an arrest within the first day are cleared, but those that stretch on a longer are less successful.

“When it stretches days and days and days, it makes it more difficult for the investigation,” he said. “With the technology, along with putting more officers in business districts, we’ve seen a very sharp increase in our shoplifting arrests.”

He added that the number of shoplifting arrests in 2024 — over 10,000 — are on pace to exceed last year’s 25,000 total.

Not everyone is convinced the new cop cam program will be good for business, though.

Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, told The News the new pilot program is “a half-baked solution that’s ripe for abuse.”

Cahn said that a similar program in Detroit has led businesses to complain that those who opt out have been penalized with slower 911 response times.

“I worry that stores will be pressured to join the program even when they don’t want [it], like the complaints we’ve seen from Detroit,” he said.