Police seek help from residents’ surveillance cameras to battle crime

Benny Westcott

The Sweet Home Police Department is asking residents and business owners throughout Sweet Home to register their privately owned surveillance camera systems with the department as part of a crime-solving program.

As officers investigate criminal incidents, they may be able to use footage gathered from community cameras to help solve crimes through a mapping tool called Civic Eye.

The Civic Eye database provides instant information of nearby cameras to officers investigating crimes.

The program is a new component of the Sweet Home Police Department’s crime prevention strategy. It is completely voluntary to register one’s video surveillance system location, and a person can choose to opt out of the program at any time.

“All it does is give officers a potential source of leads,” said Sean Morgan, Sweet Home Police Department community services officer. “It’s a simple thing, but video footage frequently makes the difference in solving a crime. Knowing what footage may be available and where will no doubt be the key that solves numerous crimes.”

Earlier this year, Morgan said, he received a phone call from an officer investigating a crime in his neighborhood.

The officer was trying to find out if Morgan knew of any camera systems in the area.

Morgan didn’t, so he contacted a couple of neighbors, but they didn’t know either. Hours elapsed, waiting for return phone calls, and the search was fruitless.

In a much simpler scenario, a police officer responds to a package’s theft and takes a report. The officer opens the database on a smartphone and instantly has a map of nearby surveillance systems. That officer knows whom to call to request potential crime-solving footage.

Many business owners and residents already operate private surveillance systems. As crimes occur in their respective areas, community members are not always aware that their surveillance systems may have captured information that could prove vital in a law enforcement investigation.

If someone registers their private surveillance system, this does not mean that the police department will have access to their system’s footage.

Instead, they will simply be aware that a camera exists when investigating a crime in or around a particular neighborhood. If a crime occurs in the vicinity or an adjoining area, the police may, if necessary, contact participants of the program and request a copy of their footage for evidence or investigative leads.

The list of registered properties is kept confidential. Only members of the Police Department would have access to the list.

“As the evidence technician, I can tell you the evidence room has a lot of stored footage that has been used to solve crimes and bring criminals to justice,” Morgan said.

“It’s extremely common in retail outlets that deal with shoplifters. This is a simple way to make a big difference in your neighborhoods when they experience crime.”