When it comes to solving crimes, privately owned security camera footage can be a key piece of evidence for investigators. Sometimes the footage will reveal the perpetrator or the vehicle they were driving at the time of the alleged crime.
The Gaithersburg Police Department (GPD) created the security camera registration program in late December. Area businesses and/or residents are encouraged to log their system(s) with the city agency and in the event a crime occurs in the area, investigators will know to check their camera for potential leads. “We will still do door-to-door canvases but, at least, it gives them a little bit more of an opportunity to get more information a little bit quicker,” said GPD Officer Dan Lane, spokesman.
A GPD crime analyst heard about the program during a meeting and brought the idea back to the agency because she felt it would be beneficial. “We looked at it and we have had a couple of cases around the city where residents provided us camera footage that they had from their homes that helped us develop a suspect or at least confirm information that we had obtained already,” Lane said. The Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., has a similar program but theirs is incentive-based.
The security camera registration site asks residents and business owners several questions about themselves like name, address, phone number and email. Registration also collects information about their systems. How long does your system run—24 hours, 30 days, 60 days? Where are the camera(s) located? How long and what method does the system store information?
Once completed, residents/business owners can expect a call from a department official to confirm the information and ask for the best contact information in the event they need to look at footage. “We are not going to call in the middle of the night to bother somebody about it,” Lane said. “We are going to do it during the best reasonable hours we can find.”
Afterward, the only time officers will contact residents about the program is if there is a serious crime in the area. “We are not going to show (footage) to anybody (but investigators),” he said. “This is people’s private information.”
The program allows officers to possibly develop more information about a case. Did a suspect try other houses before they broke into another? Was a vehicle stopped in a neighboring driveway related to a crime? Lane said the footage could be a valuable resource for investigators. “It gives (residents/business owners) the benefit of helping the police out and help close cases in the area,” he said.
The registration form can be found on the department’s website at www.gaithersburgmd.gov under the services and public safety tabs. Lane said officers have been talking to residents and business owners about the program. “We are letting communities know as we see them,” he said. “If (the department) gets just a few it would be a success. This is completely volunteer. It’s something new we are trying out.”