COLUMBIA – On Monday, the Columbia City Council will decide whether the Columbia Police Department will authorize an agreement with FUSUS, a surveillance footage software.
If passed, CPD will not add any new surveillance cameras; the cameras that already exist will be used, CPD Chief Geoff Jones said Friday at the Muleskinners meeting.
Business and residential cameras can use the FUSUS system. The difference is the actual appliance, called a FUSUS Core, required to give CPD access to cameras. The Core will only be available to businesses. The appliance looks like a router or modem, and its size depends on how many cameras are connected it. The smallest size FUSUS Core supports is four cameras, while a larger size can support up to 50.
Once the camera is hooked up to the FUSUS Core, CPD would have access to the camera’s live-feed and recorded video. Businesses can choose which cameras they would like to connect to FUSUS.
For example, if a business has a total of 20 cameras, they could choose to only connect 15 of them to FUSUS. CPD said the appliance can be purchased by businesses who are able to afford it, or can be donated by CPD or the city of Columbia.
“With this appliance, you can give access to different levels of your choosing,” Jones said. “It’s completely voluntary, to have access to that camera.”
Chief Jones said residential cameras, as well as business cameras, will be able to register with FUSUS, which is totally separate from using the FUSUS Core appliance. Instead, a household or business can register their camera to let CPD know they have a camera and are willing to share footage should an incident arise nearby. This is the only way residential cameras can be used with FUSUS, but businesses could opt for this registration process instead of getting the appliance.
“That could be registering the camera and saying ‘Hey, we have a camera here if you have an incident and want to look at it, get a hold of us,'” Jones said.
FUSUS could help CPD officers in residential areas near crime scenes, where only the registration option will be offered.
“If you register, the person [officer] who’s on scene can actually drop a pin and draw out a radius around that pin,” Jones explained. “And it’ll pull up the people who are registered in that area. And we ask people to give us a phone number or an email or both, and we can send them a text message or an email saying, ‘Hey, during this time, this happened, we’re asking you to look for this.’ ”
Chief Jones said he wants to stress that privacy will not be invaded if the FUSUS system passes. He said CPD will not look into private places.
“These are in public places, where you don’t have an expectation of privacy,” he said. “And they wouldn’t be pointed in any place where people had an expectation of privacy.”
Jones said he wanted to make it clear that FUSUS will not use facial recognition, and CPD will not be able to identify human features.
“It can track things like a backpack, or bicycle, or a red car or a blue car,” Jones said. “It does not track race or gender.”
The police department hopes to avoid waiting long periods of time to access camera footage. Jones said currently, officers canvas an area after a crime and ask surrounding neighbors to look at any footage they may have.
“We try to get video in most of our cases, but right now it’s very difficult and time consuming,” he said. “We’re not asking to get access to anything we can’t already get. It’s more about efficiency with us.”
CPD said many businesses in Columbia have already expressed their support for FUSUS. MU, Columbia Public Schools, and the Columbia Mall are among them.
The general manager of the Columbia Mall, Rusty Strodtman, said the mall is in support of the FUSUS software.
“That whole time, CPD’s hands are kind of tied because they are not able to access our footage or other businesses’ footage, so they may not know the exact identity of an individual or a suspect, or the description of a vehicle,” Strodtman said. “So the longer it takes for them to get that footage from us or another business, the longer that crime goes unsolved.”
He said the Columbia Mall will directly benefit from FUSUS as well.
“We typically get asked maybe weekly now for some footage, so we put quite a few resources toward this already,” Strodtman said. “So we believe it’s going to save us some of our resources, so that we can focus on other things. the main things is the times, this is going to be a much quicker process.”
The Columbia City Council will meet at 7 pm Monday in the Council Chamber at City Hall.