Miami Beach is willing to spare residents and business owners some bureaucratic red tape and few bucks, but the offer comes with a tradeoff: You must be willing to act as an extra eye for the city’s police force.
Last week, commissioners unanimously passed a bill that eliminates the permitting process and allows three extra freebees for false alarms, if residents or business owners who have, or are installing surveillance cameras, are willing to direct at least one of them toward a public right of way.
City leaders say the ordinance, proposed by Miami Beach Commissioner Micky Steinberg and passed unanimously, just adds a new crime-fighting tool to the police department’s arsenal.
Residents or businesses joining the program — which varies by property but roughly comes to a permit savings cost of about $100 - must register with the city. But the agreement doesn’t mean the cameras would be hooked up directly to the police department or any closed-circuit city television system.
Even after registering, a homeowner would still retain the right to deny the police department the surveillance video. Coral Gables has passed a similar ordinance.
“We’re looking for ways to incentivize those who have them,” Commissioner Steinberg said. “Most people don’t have a camera adjusted to the right of way.”
Video surveillance has become increasingly popular in the U.S. since 9/11. Most big cities, including Miami, have followed in the footsteps of European allies and have blanketed neighborhoods with cameras in public rights of way.
Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates explained how surveillance video helped his detectives solve a crime a few weeks ago when a couple of guys jumped a fence at a home on North Bay Road and rummaged through some expensive vehicles.
The April 25 video from the home clearly shows two men pull up in a light-colored, four-door Jeep Cherokee with three women inside, just outside the home’s front gate. The men jump the metallic fence onto the property. Another camera shows them trying to enter the home.
They retreat and another camera catches them breaking into a Range Rover, a Cadillac Escalade and a Porsche Panamera in the driveway, before hopping the fence to the outside and taking off.
The men were captured a few days later. Police said the video led them to the vehicle.
“That’s a classic example of helping us solve a crime,” the chief said. “More and more we’re solving crimes with private video.”
Four days later, though, a surveillance video at a home in Miami Beach did little to stop a thief from breaking into a home and stealing more than $11,000 worth of jewelry. The thief covered his face with that day’s copy of El Nuevo Herald. He hasn’t been captured yet.