Programs encourage sharing of footage with police

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Associated Press

Posted on March 1, 2013 at 6:32 PM

DALLAS (AP) — Suburban Dallas resident Scott Lindsey is joining a growing group of homeowners collaborating with police by providing home-surveillance footage that may help nab criminals prowling their neighborhoods.

"Criminals are criminals, but if criminals understand that the entire city is wired with surveillance, they may be a little more hesitant," said Lindsey, who has several cameras at his Richardson home.

The Dallas Morning News reported Friday (http://dallasne.ws/YEmDWp) that police departments in the Dallas suburbs of Richardson and Sachse last month launched separate efforts in which residents sign up with authorities, submitting information about their camera systems.

Police then can contact volunteers near crime scenes, asking residents to review their footage to see if the cameras caught anything.

Alex del Carmen, chair of the University of Texas at Arlington's criminology and criminal justice department, said such cameras are more symbolic than useful, but people can benefit by feeling safer.

"It allows the resident to be a stakeholder," del Carmen said. "The community comes together to fight crime."

But the use of these cameras also raises questions about civil rights and privacy, del Carmen said.

"Where do you draw that line between the usage of video cameras to protect us from crime and the expectation of privacy that citizens should have?" he said.

But such concerns appear to lag behind a prevailing belief that communities must remain vigilant against crime.

Authorities said they don't intend to turn neighborhoods into places where residents are monitored 24 hours a day, and volunteers will decide if they want to turn over images or footage that captured criminal activity.

"By making sure that we use this technology in cooperation with the citizens, I think this can be a huge benefit to solving crimes," said Mike Wieczorek, a Richardson police officer who's helping manage his department's Neighborhood Video Crime Watch program.

Police in Richardson said that about 30 residents had signed up. Sachse reported a similar number of participants.

The Dallas Police Department has used homeowners' recorded video footage in past investigations and is studying what other cities are doing with their video partnerships, said police spokesman Lt. Paul Stokes.

In Philadelphia, police have launched SafeCam, which allows residents and businesses to register their cameras. Other police departments across the country work with businesses or apartment complexes that have surveillance systems.

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Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com

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