More than 200 surveillance cameras are spread throughout O’Fallon. They cover the city’s parks, public buildings and other high-traffic areas in town.
Those cameras can provide police with important evidence if a crime is committed within their view. As more private surveillance cameras crop up, most affixed to the outside of residences, police are hopeful O’Fallon residents will voluntarily register their outdoor surveillance cameras with the O’Fallon Police Department.
On Monday, the department launched its Private Video Surveillance Camera Registration Program, the first of its kind in the area. The idea is to give police another tool when it comes to fighting crime.
“We’re always looking for that partnership with the community because we can’t do everything on our own,” said Capt. Kirk Brueggeman. “Law enforcement is so much a community-police partnership, and that’s something we are always trying to push. This is another opportunity to reach out to our citizens and say, ‘Hey, we could use your help. If you’re willing to help us, we’re on board.’”
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Police would utilize the list of cameras to help them investigate incidents. If something happened in an area where a registered camera is located, police would contact the owner of the camera to see if they could have access to their footage.
“We are only interested in cameras on the outside of a house,” Brueggeman said. “If something happens inside your house, you’re going to let us know about that. This is more for the things that happen down the street or at the back of your subdivision where a car might have driven by and you might be able to get a description of a car that drove by from your camera system.”
The registration systems are being used by police departments throughout America. Brueggeman said O’Fallon got the idea after researching what some police departments in California are doing with similar programs. The closest Illinois community with a similar program is in Bloomington in central Illinois.
Cameras tend to keep people honest. A lot of people in the world are good people, and sometimes there are crimes of opportunity. If someone knows they might be being videotaped, it helps keep people honest and maybe prevents some of those crimes as well.
O’Fallon Police Capt. Kirk Brueggeman
“We’ve seen an influx of privately-owned surveillance cameras,” Brueggeman said. “The prices have come down dramatically over the last few years. ... They are all over the place. Businesses have had them for a long time but now they are really coming into vogue with private residences.
“One of our sergeants suggested that we start to document where those private cameras were in case we have something in a neighborhood that we can make a contact. It’s nice for one officer to have a contact, but wouldn’t it be nice for all 40 of us to have that same contact and be able to call that person and ask them if they would mind if we checked their cameras?”
Since posting a registration form on its website Monday, the department had 10 people, a mix of businesses and residents, sign up to take part in the program in the first three days. Brueggeman said the department has no goal for how big the program might become.
“I’m not sure what kind of response we are going to get, but anything better than zero is more than we had before,” he said.
Residents can delete their registration at any time.
Brueggeman hopes that word of the registration program will help deter would-be criminals.
“Cameras tend to keep people honest,” he said. “A lot of people in the world are good people, and sometimes there are crimes of opportunity. If someone knows they might be being videotaped, it helps keep people honest and maybe prevents some of those crimes as well.”