Recordings mostly temporary [Daily Record, The (Wooster, OH)]
(Daily Record, The (Wooster, OH) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) WOOSTER -- "You think about the whole 'Big Brother' thing, but that's not why we're doing it. We don't want to spy on people. We have signs all over the place letting people know that they are being filmed."
So said Bill Martino, director of the Holmes County District Public Library, as he talked about the facility's system of surveillance cameras.
But what many people do not realize is when they are filmed at a public facility -- no matter how well-intentioned -- that film record becomes a public document in the same way as does a police report or any type of court record.
And dealing with the ever-proliferating pile of video recordings seems to be becoming an issue destined to plague public officials.
Each municipality in Wayne and Holmes counties deals with the retention of the video records in its own way, but public officials across the board acknowledge it's only a matter of time before some type of state or national legislation dictates how these must be preserved and under what sort of defined circumstances they can be destroyed.
Martino said at the library the equipment records over footage every four weeks, if the material is not specifically saved.
"But if we notice something, we can save it," said Martino. "If we think (an incident occurred) around 1 p.m. we can go back to that time. We can also record and do still pictures."
Millersburg Village Administrator Nate Troyer noted, "The footage is not on our current records retention policy, so nothing has been erased or over-written to date. The footage would fall under the same public records guidelines (with any applicable exemptions) as any other information from the village."
In Orrville, the video images, which are collected on a disc, are on a 30-day purge cycle, so images collected a month ago are continually disappearing from the end of the disc as they are replaced by incoming images at the front. The same type of purge is used for 9-1-1 calls in Orrville.
Police Chief Dino Carozza said images can be saved from the purge if the department is notified within the 30-day window.
In Apple Creek, where police Chief Jason Woodruff said no one has ever made a request for video footage, the footage is retained for about three days because of limited space on the single DVR hard drive that takes in the feed from 12 cameras.
Woodruff said if the village adds four more cameras, which is under consideration, storage capacity would drop to only two days. And he said that becomes a real concern in terms of records retention.
"I think right now, if we were to add (more cameras), if something happened over the weekend, we wouldn't necessarily have it Monday morning," Woodruff noted. He said the best way that currently exists to preserve the video record is to save it on a flash drive and burn it to a DVD.
In Smithville, police Chief Chuck Ellis said surveillance cameras record 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He said video images are retained for about six months.
Ellis said cameras do not record sound, noting it could be construed as an illegal wiretap.
The City of Wooster's cameras run 24/7 and only record video footage with no sound. The data is stored on servers in the basement of city hall for 14 days.
Other sets of cameras in Wooster are located in police cruisers, and are activated every time a cruiser's emergency lights are turned on. The cameras record sound and video.
The videos are automatically uploaded once the cruiser returns to the Wayne County Justice Center, and are stored for a limited time because of server space. The footage is copied only if it is needed for an investigation.
Chief of Police Matt Fisher said footage from a cruiser can be requested by a member of the public as long as it is not part of an ongoing investigation.
"I can't remember a request for that," said Dick Benson, the city's law director. "I can't see why anyone would want it."
Benson and Director of Administration Joel Montgomery noted video footage is a public record, but the law director said the major issue they would have with complying with such a request would be storage. He noted "a good deal of storage is needed to hang onto these videos created by city-owned cameras." Benson said it would be cost-prohibitive to store it for an extended period of time.
Benson said the city has retention schedules -- which vary from one department to the next -- regarding low long it must retain the records it creates.
All of the surveillance cameras in the Clinton Street Office Building and the Holmes County Courthouse in Millersburg are monitored at the security station at the entrance to the courthouse, most often monitored by Holmes County Sheriff's Sgt. Mike McElroy.
On several monitors, McElroy can view all nine cameras in the county building and all 19 at the courthouse (including three exterior cameras added a year ago), but he also can zoom in on individual cameras to get a better view.
They're used to keep an eye on the daily activity, and McElroy said he can "tell at a glance if things are running routinely or if something's out of place."
Footage from the cameras is stored on an off-site server and is maintained for about two weeks unless necessity dictates otherwise, McElroy said.
At the Wayne County Public Library, Director Jennifer Shatzer said the retention schedule authorized by library policy is 14 days, although footage may be retained for a longer period of time if it is applicable to an investigation or litigation.
Under library's policy, video footage is not public record, and should a member of the public request it, he or she must do so through a police complaint. Video recordings must, according to the policy, be accessed with "search warrants, court orders and requests by law enforcement for an active investigation."
In Doylestown, camera footage is kept in a secure area of the police department. Unless being used in an investigation, the footage is available to be viewed by members of the public, said police chief, Brian Dressler, adding that it loops in a 30-day cycle.
In Creston, the camera footage also is available to the public, although solicitor Allan Michelson noted once the footage is taped over, the records are gone and the public is simply out of luck.
Reporter Paul Locher can be reached at 330-682-2055, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Contributing to this article were reporters Kelley Mohr, Linda Hall, Steven F. Huszai, Amanda Gallagher, Christine L. Pratt and Abby Armbruster.
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