As consumer-grade security cameras have become cheaper to buy and easier to install, area police departments have turned to residents and businesses to help them in crime fighting.
At least six area communities have started a residential and business camera registry to help them collect video footage of crimes taking place in neighborhoods or retail outlets.
“The changes in technology over the last several years have made systems like these affordable and the quality that we are seeing is truly remarkable,” said acting Clark County Prosecutor Daniel Driscoll.
The City of Clayton is the most-recent Dayton area police department to implement a security camera program for residents. The city’s Home Security Camera Registration program was started in the past month. Riverside, Kettering, Middletown, West Chester Twp. and Clark County have also added programs in the past year.
“The more eyes on the streets, assist the officers, helps us reduce crime, and we are trying to take advantage of that fact,” said Clayton Police Chief Matt Hamlin.
The programs can offer advantages for residents and police, but experts told the Dayton Daily News residents should understand their rights before signing up.
When a resident or business registers their camera with police, the information will go into a virtual database that officers can use. Information stored will be the name of the resident or business, phone number, number of cameras, locations of cameras and email.
If a crime occurs in a neighborhood, police can look at the database and see who has a camera in the vicinity of the incident. Officers can then call the resident to ask to meet and get access to the camera footage.
“The idea is if we have an incident that should occur, we can check the our local camera registrations, and contact residents or businesses with cameras to review, and to obtain any information or evidence their cameras might have captured,” Hamlin said.
Police said it’s another tool for their “tool belts.”
“The real time information that is being taped is key in the initial start of investigating,” said West Chester Twp. officer Daniel Dean.
Businesses and residents who sign up for Clayton’s program can receive tips from officers about the placement of the cameras and officers will answer questions or concerns.
“I think these programs have the potential for success,” said Thaddeus Hoffmeister, a University of Dayton law professor and legal expert. “The key is educating residents and businesses about potential privacy issues. Anyone who participates should do so with their eyes wide open and ask plenty of questions.”
Those questions, Hoffmeister said, could include how video will be used, what access third parties will have to it.
“Will they retain ownership rights of the video, how long will the video be kept and by whom, and will anyone attempt to monetize the video?” Hoffmeister said.
Police said the length of time a video is kept varies on the type of case that is involved and how long it lasts. Other factors include appeals and records retention rules if it is entered into evidence.
Security cameras, when hidden remotely, catch more than many residents and businesses realize, and they could help a neighbor and police, officers said. Technology is evolving, and this includes home security system cameras.
In Kettering, for example, the program has had direct results in about four porch pirate thefts, police spokesman Joe Ferrell said.
In one incident, an elderly woman was attacked in a home invasion and two suspects were caught on a neighbor’s security camera. They were later arrested.
Ferrell said he has received a call from a Pennsylvania police department about how their program works.
Riverside police have not had to use their program yet but the number of residents that have signed up continues to climb, police officials said.
West Chester Twp. police have used its program for porch pirate thefts and have arrested suspects because they were caught on a home security camera.
In Middletown, the shooting death of Benny Barefield was caught on his own home security camera system in December 2018.
Sgt. Joe Sanders and Hamlin are leading the program in Clayton and hope this will grow the relationship between law enforcement and the community.
Police officials have said this will help speed the process of investigating a crime, reducing the time officers spend walking the neighborhoods and searching to see who has cameras installed.
Warren County defense attorney David Chicarelli also said such programs will help cases get resolved quickly because footage will be readily available.
“A lot of instances, I have innocent clients, and security cameras proves that,” said Chicarelli in a February interview.
Hamlin said the Clayton program does not cost taxpayers money and is free to sign up.
Nearly 300 residents or businesses have signed up nearly 500 cameras in the six area communities. Clark County has about 100 different camera locations around the county that participate.
“This is a easy way for the citizens of Clark County to aid law enforcement,” Driscoll said. “We encourage anyone with a camera system to contact us and sign up.”
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