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Storing Body Cam Data is the Next Big Challenge for Police

There are nearly 18,000 state and local police departments in the United States, and almost one-third of them are now putting body-cameras on their officers. And that number is almost certain to grow as the technology is embraced by cops and their critics alike. But the explosion in body cameras has created its own problem: what to do with all that data, and how to pay for storing it.

Big city police departments that regularly deploy body cams are likely generating more than 10,000 hours of video a week, says Mary Fan, a law professor at the University of Washington who studies law enforcement technology. With all that data, departments are increasingly turning to private, high-volume storage businesses like VERIPATROL, a cloud-based service owned by body cam maker Vievu, and evidence.com, a similar service owned by competitor TASER International.

Read more: Los Angeles Police to Launch Largest Body Cam Program in U.S.

Sydney Siegmeth, a TASER spokesperson, says that a video is uploaded to evidence.com every 1.6 seconds, equaling 2.1 petabytes (one petabyte equals a million gigabytes).

For these companies, storage is becoming big business. In the third quarter of 2015, TASER saw $36.9 million in storage sales, up from just $5.9 million in the first quarter of 2014.

Law enforcement agencies are wrestling with the challenges of storing all of this data. In New Orleans, the police department plans to pay $1.2 million for 350 cameras, with much of that total going to data storage. A 2014 Police Executive Research Forum report cited one department that reported it would cost $2 million a year for a plan that included 900 cameras—with storage again accounting for much of the bulk of the amount.

Read more: Sheriffs Are Lonely Holdouts as Police Body Cameras Grow in Use

The question for most police departments today is no longer whether they want body cameras. Instead, it’s how they can manage all the data they’ll generate.

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