Metro-East News

Do you have security cameras at home? Police want you to be ready to help solve crimes

Do you have a video camera on the outside of your house? Police want you to register it.

Several Southern Illinois police departments are asking their residents to voluntarily register their exterior video cameras to help expedite searches when crime happens.
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Several Southern Illinois police departments are asking their residents to voluntarily register their exterior video cameras to help expedite searches when crime happens.

After Marcus J. Thornton robbed the U.S. Bank on South Lincoln Avenue in O’Fallon last year, investigators were able to track his getaway vehicle on various video surveillance systems all the way to Collinsville.

One of the video clips came from an O’Fallon resident who had signed up for the department’s video registry program, which is designed to give detectives a quick list to see who would be willing to share video with investigators when they’re looking for clues to solve a crime.

“That was a very good use of the program,” said O’Fallon Capt. Kirk Brueggeman.

Now Belleville and Edwardsville recently started video registry programs similar to the one established last year in O’Fallon.

“Private citizens can voluntarily sign up, register their surveillance cameras and they’ll be put on a list, which we have now, so in case there is a crime in their neighborhood, … we know that when we start that canvass in that neighborhood, we’ll have a list, ‘Hey for example, Mr. and Mrs. Smith signed up, they live just down the street, maybe we’ll knock on their door and see perhaps if their video captured some of this crime in progress or least the suspects,’” said Belleville Master Sgt. Chris Mattingly.

When someone spray-painted swastikas on hundreds of graves in a Glen Carbon cemetery and on some houses and cars in Edwardsville in May, it was a residential security camera that helped identify the alleged perpetrator, according to Edwardsville Police Chief Jay Keeven.

Edwardsville’s new security camera registration program had not yet started, but this case was a prime example of how the private cameras can help detectives, Keeven said.

“It just lets us quickly identify whether the potential for video exists,” Keeven said.

“Realistically, we’re going to go knock on the doors anyway,” he said. “We have had other incidents where video has helped us identify individuals.”

Detectives will look for images of suspects and vehicles appearing on video that was recorded both before and after the crime occurred.

“Any time a new business comes to town and builds from scratch, our department sits down with the architects and owners, and we always recommend video surveillance,” Keeven said.

Brueggeman said security video systems are now much easier to install because you can get wireless systems and the prices have become affordable to more people.

O’Fallon Detective Brian Gimpel, who worked on the U.S. Bank robbery case, said he and other officers have helped residents and businesses learn how to better use their surveillance systems. For instance, he said officers have found that one store manager may have been trained on how to use a system but then leaves the store, and the new manager wasn’t trained. Other surveillance systems do not have the timing set correctly, and officers have helped people with getting that fixed.

Privacy concerns

The police departments are only compiling a registry of residents and business owners who have exterior video surveillance systems and do not seek any livestreaming.

“We are in no way connected, nor do we want to be connected to, anybody’s home video surveillance system,” Brueggeman said.

Mattingly noted that people who have signed up for the program can decline to give investigators any video.

Where to sign up

Enrollment information is available on each department’s web page.

For Belleville, go to Belleville.net, click on “departments” and then on “private video surveillance camera registration” under the police department.

For O’Fallon, go to ofallon.org/police-department and click on “private video surveillance camera registration” on the left side of the page.

For Edwardsville, go to cityofedwardsville.com and click on “services” and then click on “police forms.” Next, click on “private video surveillance registration program.”

Elizabeth Donald contributed information for this article.
Mike Koziatek: 618-239-2502, @MikeKoziatekBND
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