It is an unfortunate reality that security concerns have become an important part of the public mindset. While it is very important to protect the safety of children, members, guests, and staff that enter our facilities, it is sad that our limited resources must be utilized for protection instead of programming.
One method of protection being used by many YMCAs is the placement of interior and exterior security surveillance equipment to help safe-guard both their patrons and their patrons’ belongings. Such action has its pros and cons.
An interesting story surfaced about a San Francisco man who was robbed at an ATM. He asked his bank to show him the surveillance video of the incident but was told that the videos are private property and are only released to police upon subpoena.
WOW! This certainly raises questions that could arise for monitoring companies, YMCAs using surveillance, and even installing dealers. Who owns the surveillance video? What liability might arise from releasing surveillance video to others?
Other potential questions include:
* Should YMCAs willingly release video to police or other jurisdictional authorities without a subpoena (simply as professional courtesy)?
* What are the possible implications and liability issues if the YMCA shows surveillance video footage to crime victims?
* Does it matter if the crime was committed off their property instead of on their property?
Video recording is not subject to regulation like audio recording. Federal statutes, plus statutes in most states, specifically restrict audio recordings (e.g., cannot do without proper notice or consent or for quality assurance). However, except in certain jurisdictions video recording is largely lacking legislation. That absence of specific statutes means that the video recording is the property of whomever recorded it, e.g., the YMCA, or the surveillance company providing the service if independent of the YMCA. The YMCA would have no obligation to provide the recording to anyone voluntarily, though it would need to be available to law enforcement agencies if requested as possible evidence of a crime. There is no real reason why a YMCA should insist on a formal subpoena or court order before providing the video footage to the appropriate law enforcement agency. Since withholding or tampering with evidence of a crime is itself a crime, the YMCA would be wise to release the video to the authorized entity.
Releasing a video recording to law enforcement exposes the YMCA only to doubtful civil exposure for several reasons:
* Video recording is probably not prohibited.
* As long as the YMCA is not using the video for commercial purposes such as advertising it does not violate privacy rights.
* There is no reasonable expectation of privacy in public areas where there is a clear notice of video surveillance or where video surveillance is known or should be expected to exist.
Video surveillance is discoverable in a civil case. A YMCA probably could not support a claim that the tapes were confidential. The YMCA would be wise to release the tapes pursuant to subpoena rather than insisting on a court order that would not be difficult to obtain in the course of civil litigation.
So, if you decide to employ video surveillance, where should cameras be installed? Possibilities include:
* Parking lots
* Building entrances and exits
* Membership and front desks
* Outside locker room doors (never inside even with notice posted)
* Pools – at deck, not water; not to replace lifeguards
Once recorded, videos should be retained for a minimum of 30 days, with provisions for saving the original video and for producing duplicates of meaningful footage.
It comes down to the expectation of privacy and the use of the videos. Civil rights laws prohibit the use of any living person’s name or image for commercial purposes without their express consent. That restriction does not apply to this utilization of video technology; surveillance videos are a viable tool in protecting our YMCAs from the dangers of violent crime, abuse, and theft.