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City approves plan to give police quick access to private security cameras

Baltimore officials approved Wednesday an expansion of the Police Department's camera system that will give officers quick access to private security cameras at businesses and homes that choose to be part of the effort.

The new program, funded by a $53,200 grant from the Abell Foundation, will create a single database of public and private camera systems, which the mayor's office says will allow police to solve crimes faster.

Residents and business owners will be able to opt into the program by registering their security cameras with the Mayor's Office of Information Technology through a Web application, city officials said.

When the database is complete, it will enable operators in police and CitiWatch control rooms to immediately identify all registered camera systems in an area near a crime. The cameras would otherwise be unknown, inaccessible, costly or time-consuming to locate, officials said.

The city's Board of Estimates approved the program Wednesday.

The move builds on Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's continued push to expand the city's camera system. More than 100 crime cameras have been added to the CitiWatch network since she took office, increasing the total to 583.

In 2011, the camera program contributed to 1,236 arrests, 145 of them for violent crimes, including robberies, assaults and illegal gun possession, the mayor's office said.

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