How Long Do Apartment Security Cameras Keep Footage?

In some of  my previous posts, I wrote about whether security cameras record all the time and about how long the average home security camera stores footage for

And in this post, I look into the use of security cameras in our public lives- the security cameras that are in the streets and important buildings in our neighbourhoods.

And I answer 5 common questions about these cameras and how long they store footage::

  • How long do traffic cameras keep footage?
  • How long do apartment security cameras keep footage?
  • How long do banks keep atm video footage?
  • How long do school cameras keep footage ? 
  • How long do hospitals keep video surveillance?

Let’s start off by discussing the cameras that impact on our lives the most and we tend to like the least- traffic cameras.

How long do traffic cameras keep footage?

There is not one simple answer to this question because these cameras are owned and operated by several different agencies.

This website believes that footage might only be kept for 24 hours, if at all. 

Whereas this website believes it is about 10 days. 

The five biggest agencies are: department of transport, police, state, county or city.

Most people want to know more about these cameras because they have been involved in a car accident and they want footage.

And there are three things to consider here.

Firstly,  the main reason that traffic cameras are in place is not to help with accident claims, it is to help with traffic management or to enforce road safety laws. 

Secondly, if you want to make a request get yourself an attorney.It is unlikely that they will respond to a request from a private individual as they aren’t legally obliged to do so and because of the many man hours it will take to locate the footage. 

Thirdly, act very, very quickly in order to give yourself the best chance of accessing any footage before it is deleted or recorded over. 

The Four Types of Cameras on American Roads

Below I have created a chart that displays the 4 main types of cameras that can be found on American roads. 

Type RolePositionOutputOwners
Traffic MonitoringFixedVideoDept of Transport
ANPRMonitoringFixed | MobileVideoPolice
Red LightEnforcementFixed PhotoPolice
Speed EnforcementFixed | MobilePhotoPolice

What is a traffic camera? 

A traffic camera is a video camera that observes vehicles on roads. 

They send a live feed to a monitoring center which can alert the relevant authorities if there is a collision or a road safety issue that could disrupt the flow of traffic. 

What is an ANPR camera

An ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) is a camera that identifies the number plates on cars. 

In this way, these cameras are constantly tracking the whereabouts of vehicles (and by definition drivers.) 

These cameras are either fixed (mounted on poles by the side of roads) or they are mobile (they are located in police cars.)

As well as their use on our roads and in our police cars, ANPR cameras are used very widely on the forecourts of gas stations and in public car parks as a means of making sure that people pay for gas or for parking!

What is a red light camera?

A red light camera is a type of road safety camera. A red light camera is placed on a mast overlooking an intersection and when someone fails to stop at a red light, the camera takes a few high resolution photos of the car, including the licence plate.

Unlike traffic cameras, red light cameras do not record any video or connect to a monitoring center. 

What is a speed camera?

A speed camera takes high resolution photos of any vehicle that is breaking the speed limit along a section of road. 

There are two types of speed cameras- fixed and mobile cameras

Fixed speed cameras are mounted on fixed masts by the side of the road and stay there permanently. 

Mobile speed cameras are normally housed in vans or on temporary tripods by the side of the road. 

Like the fixed speed cameras, mobile speed cameras are universally hated (for obvious reasons.)

Mobile cameras are harder to spot and they are much more powerful because generally they are much more powerful- they can catch you speeding from a much greater distance than the fixed cameras. 

Do insurance companies check traffic cameras?

Yes, insurance companies do check traffic cameras when a person is making a claim that involves a traffic accident. 

How far an insurance company will go with their surveillance (or background checks) depends on how big the claim is.

But it is common practice for them to put in a freedom of information request to the owners of any traffic cameras in the location of the accident. 

How long do apartment security cameras keep footage?

Photo by Jimmy Chan from Pexels

Have you been a victim of a crime within an apartment building and you want to know if it was recorded by cctv?

You might be in luck because the number of security cameras that are being used to monitor communal areas within buildings is growing all the time.

Whether this footage has been kept and will be available for you to view are questions that are trickier to answer. 

In terms of data protection in the USA there are no guidelines on how long security camera or cctv footage should be retained for, how it can be used and who can access it. 

It must comply with broader laws on voyeurism and eavesdropping.

In the USA, it is made trickier by the fact that there isn’t a central  federal law on data prevention

In the US, the Data Protection Act was passed way back in 1998 and dealt with the storage of personal information, such as video footage.

As a result, a police recommendation was that any footage of serious incidents be kept for 31 days, whilst less serious be kept for 14 days. 

But that was over 20 years ago and times have changed.

In 1998 only the largest and wealthiest agencies and businesses would have CCTV installed and now they are everywhere. 

And secondly, security cameras have been part of this huge technological revolution of the past 20 years.

The way that security cameras work and the way that they store footage is light years away from what was happening in 1998.

Unlike in the European Union which has a very powerful central General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which all government agencies and businesses must comply with.  

Instead the US depends on vertically or industry specific laws such as those affecting health insurance or child protection.

 The reason for this is that apartment buildings are owned and operated by so many different companies that they won’t all be using the same system or following the same policies.

Your best bet is to approach the owners of the apartment block and ask them for a Freedom of Information request regarding their security camera footage.

You also might want to get hold of a copy of their terms and conditions to see if they mention anything about the use of surveillance cameras in that document.

You might have a better chance of success with the owners if you use an attorney, who can subpoena them. 

How long do banks keep atm video footage?

Photo by Johny vino on Unsplash

Again. Very sorry but there isn’t a one size fits all answer for this and it is very hard to get any real answers to this.

There are a lot of opinions and vague impressions that are in the public domain such as here and here

But very little concrete fact.

Yet we do know a lot more, courtesy of this website.  

Not surprisingly banks are required to have video surveillance as part of their insurance on any losses. 

New York was so concerned about the use of ATMs that in 1996 it passed its own ATM Safety Act. 

To make that the millions of people who were using ATMs were able to use them safely. 

And one of the requirements is for constant video surveillance. 

In 2003, the length of time that a bank needed to keep any footage was increased to 45 days as a means of combating fraud. 

This act applies only to ATMs that are located in or around banking institutions in the state of New York. 

Will you be able to access it?

You would need to contact the bank via the police, your insurance company or an attorney. 

How long do school cameras keep footage? 

In 2015- 2016 the NCES (National Center for Educational Statistics) reported that 94% high schools, 89% Middle Schools and 73% of primary schools were using security cameras. 

Unsurprisingly, their use had more than doubled in a decade. 

Once again there is no consistent guidance from schools in terms of the length of time that footage should be stored for because it is not the most important focus of any laws or guidance. 

Like many other organisations or institutions, a school will keep video footage for as long as it needs to and as long as it can afford to.

It is most likely that a high school will have more serious incidents that are picked up by their cameras than a primary school.

And primary schools  will tend to be smaller than high schools.

This means that high schools will need more cameras which will result in more storage costs.

Of course, there will be some exceptions to these. 

Legal issues regarding schools are most concerned with the position of any camera rather any issues regarding data storage.

It seems that policies are guided mostly by the fourth amendment in which any individual has a right against unreasonable searches in locations that are thought to be private. 

It would seem like, as in most other public buildings in the US, security cameras can be placed almost anywhere except bathrooms or locker/ changing rooms. 

We have already discussed that there are no federal recommendations or guidance on the amount of time that any footage should be stored but there are laws and other guidance on who can access it.

And it seems that there is a real balancing act.

Schools must preserve the confidentiality of any students in an education record and it is thought that this includes school video footage. 

Individual students and their parents have a right to review any footage. 

And if the footage includes more than one student then the footage can be viewed under the following conditions.

If the identity of other individuals can be “blurred out” it should be or if it can’t be then the footage should be available to view by all the people in the recording. 

If this is a hot topic for you then ask to see a relevant policy from an individual school or school district.

How long do hospitals keep video surveillance?

This guide recommends that most hospitals will store video footage for about 30 days but once again, there are no laws that set limits on how long hospitals should retain video footage for.

The HIPAA Act of 1996 which regulates how personal data is used within the American healthcare system has a strong data protection and confidentiality element to it but neither of these elements specifically relates to the use of security cameras in hospitals.

The law is mainly concerned with placement of cameras to make sure that they are not placed in any areas where an individual can reasonably expect any privacy- such as in patient rooms. 

An exception to this is on a maternity ward and in delivery areas. The need to keep newborns safe and secure seems to trump the need for any privacy. 

I also think that most hospitals are large enough to have a camera system that is constantly monitored by a team of security staff 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

Once again, you will have to approach an individual hospital (probably with the help of an attorney) to find out more.