Atherton residents can give police access to private security cameras.

Milestone services allows police to watch for burglaries.


Atherton police are now offering residents a chance to link their home security cameras to the department, allowing officers to provide a “virtual response” to

Residents who sign up will be added to the same Internet camera network police use to surveil public areas. Dispatchers will have the ability to instantly tap into video footage when a residential alarm is tripped.

Atherton police Detective Sherman Hall, who has overseen development of the system, said Atherton may be the first city in the United States to offer the service to citizens. It was created in response to public outcry for beefed up security, he said.

“It occurred to me, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to use the Internet to feed cameras around town back to us?’” he said.

The system has been tested in one residence for the past year. With no alarms triggered, police haven’t had a chance to use it to monitor an actual break-in, but they are ready to offer the service to all residents, Hall said.

As with the 15 cameras already in place around town, police will be able to beam video footage from residences onto a big-screen monitor at the department. However, police will not have constant access to residents’ cameras; police will only be able to view footage when an alarm is tripped, which happens a “handful” of times each day, Hall said.

The system can retrieve up to one minute of video prior to the activation of an alarm.

“Privacy is probably the biggest concern here,” he said, referring to the constitutional
amendment protecting citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. “People have cameras at their house and they don’t want (the police department) looking at them all the time. And we have no interest in it, frankly.”

The city’s Internet camera network is also password protected, Hall said.

Residents interested in linking their security cameras to Atherton’s system must pay a $300 sign-up fee, plus $269 per camera and an annual service fee of $50 per camera.

Milestone Systems (supplied) the town’s camera network.

Residents who don’t have a camera can expect to pay about $5,000 to join the  system, Hall said. Those with older model, closed-circuit television cameras will need a video encoder box to connect.

Many Atherton residences already have security cameras, Hall said. The average home value in town was $4 million last year, according to the San Mateo County Association of Realtors.

The police department wants Menlo-Atherton High School, which has a network of security cameras, to sign up for the service, Hall said. The school is burglarized
occasionally, he noted, and access to M-A’s cameras would benefit officers in the event of an emergency at the school.

See the full article in The Palo Alto Daily News website archives.

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