Stafford County launches program to use home security cameras for investigations

Residents in a Northern Virginia neighborhood have signed up to register their home security cameras with police in an effort to help catch criminals.

The Stafford County Sheriff's Office launched the new program called SCOPE, which stands for Stafford County Operation Public Eye, which was modeled after a similar program in Indiana.

Stafford County's program has already had 55 residents sign up in less than a month. The program gives law enforcement access to privately owned surveillance camera footage during crime incidents, which the sheriff's office said allows investigators to quickly identify nearby cameras that may have captured criminals in the act.

One point of concern for some residents was privacy, but the sheriff's office noted that even if a home surveillance camera is registered, it does not enable them to view the camera footage without permission.

"There are some folks who do have concerns, but what I can tell you is No. 1, it's a voluntary program," First Sgt. Michelle Gibbons with the Stafford County Sheriff's Office explained. "No. 2, we don't have access to your camera systems so it's not like we're able to remotely look at your camera system to see what's happening. We're not watching over you. You're simply registering to say, 'Hey, I would like to partner with you. I have a camera system and if a crime occurs, please call me and I'll be willing to take a look at my own camera system and let you know see if we see anything from there.'"

The sheriff's office reiterated that is must request permission each time they want to see footage to assist with an investigation and residents have the right to accept or deny that request.

The District boasts a similar program, but unlike DC's program, there is no financial incentive to participate in Stafford County's program.

To learn more about registering for the SCOPE program, click here.