Do You Have To Turn Over Surveillance Footage to the Police?

Jon Fesmire |

As a self storage operator, your relationship with law enforcement is balanced between tenant rights and being a good citizen. Part of this relationship may involve being asked to turn over surveillance footage from your storage facility.

Let’s go over what the correct response is should you find yourself in this scenario.

Why Not?

Consider this: is there any information in your facility you would want to keep from the police?

Yes. Part of your job is to protect the privacy of your tenants. So, if an officer comes by and wants to see a tenant’s file, you should refuse. If they come back with a search warrant or a subpoena for the file, then you can hand it over. The same goes for access to a tenant’s unit. You only let an officer in if they have a search warrant.

However, your video surveillance footage belongs to the facility, not to the customers. There should be no good reason to keep it from the police.

Your Rights

That said, you probably don’t have to turn over surveillance footage without a search warrant or a subpoena. This may depend on your state.

Police will sometimes come with a search warrant if they already have a fairly solid case, just to make sure they can get the information they need.

Cooperating

You may have a specific reason for not wanting to give police access to your footage. Perhaps you fear that it will infringe on a particular tenant’s privacy. Rest assured that the police aren’t the media. Say you have a famous person who rents from your facility but doesn’t want people to know that. The police aren’t going to spread that information.

Because the surveillance footage belongs to the facility, most managers will simply share it with the police when asked.

The Process

Sometimes, you can simply show the officers the footage, or allow them to look over what they need to. At other times, they may send someone from their forensics department.

Let’s say there was a crime committed on your property, or perhaps across the street, which your surveillance cameras may have caught.

The police department will want to look at what happened during that time frame on your videos. They may also need to look further back or forward for evidence, such as a criminal casing the facility or coming back to clean up. They may need to get footage to run through facial recognition software, or to get licence plate numbers. The police will probably be up front with you about what they’re looking for.

Cooperating with the police when they ask to look at surveillance footage for an investigation shows that you’re a good community citizen, and that you want to help prevent crime in the area. In fact, if you have cameras that surveille your facility grounds only, consider adding a few that record what’s happening on the street. This will help your neighborhood, because you will be able to provide police with video footage if a crime happens in the area. For the same reason, it will help your facility.

Remember, that’s what the police are there for, to enforce the law and protect the community. Very rarely is there a good reason to not cooperate with a request to see your video surveillance footage.