Minneapolis police are asking local businesses to aid criminal investigations by making it easier for authorities to obtain private surveillance footage.

On Thursday, police introduced SafeLink, a new crime prevention tool that allows businesses to register their exterior cameras with the Minneapolis Police Department and lets investigators quickly communicate with camera owners for video footage following criminal incidents. It is free to sign up.

"If you think of something like the Boston bombing, investigators had to go door to door asking who owned cameras and how to obtain the video," Commander Scott Gerlicher said in a news release. "Through programs like this, the process is all automated and much more efficient."

The system was developed by Minneapolis-based Securonet. While the police investigators will have access to camera locations, they will not be able to view the live camera feed and will still have to contact owners to request the footage.

"Securonet is an innovative initiative that has the potential to transform law enforcement and public safety in the Twin Cities," said Justin Williams, Securonet founder.

The system was "invaluable" on St. Patrick's Day, when 61 cameras were immediately utilized when a number of disturbances broke out in the city.