The Dutch police database “Camera in Beeld” has over 314,000 registered security cameras from businesses, citizens, and the government, according to police figures obtained by NU.nl. This database allows the police to request video footage from these cameras to quickly identify suspects when a serious crime has been committed.
The majority of the cameras registered in the database, over 236,000, are from businesses, while citizens have registered 55,000 cameras, and the government has nearly 23,000 cameras, mostly located along public roads. Over the past few years, the number of cameras registered has been gradually growing. Anyone with a security camera can join the program.
Police can only access footage from cameras when they are investigating serious crimes, explained Karel Engelenhover, the project manager of “Camera in Beeld”. This concerns incidents involving murder, missing persons, rape, or robbery. “Not for slashed tires,” he told Nu.nl.
In addition to helping solve crimes, the database results in significant time savings for the police. Officers can directly contact people registered in the system to ask for the footage, instead of knocking on everyone’s door to request potential camera footage that could be useful for a criminal investigation. Another advantage for the police is that people taking part in this voluntary program are not forced to cooperate, which prevents the risk of evidence being unlawfully obtained by the police.
While “Camera in Beeld” has been praised for its usefulness in crime-solving, there have been concerns that the cameras may be violating the law by recording video of public places and giving police ready access to the footage. Lotte Houwing, a representative from the privacy organization Bits of Freedom, argued that people and companies are prohibited from filming public areas, yet it is a common occurrence.
“In this way, the police have access to all kinds of illegally obtained material,” she told Nu.nl. She also said she fears these cameras might be used as “part of an extralegal police surveillance infrastructure.”
The police maintain that the program is voluntary, and only access footage from cameras when they are investigating serious crimes.