The profusion of private security cameras can serve more than just residents and businesses, police departments nationwide are finding out.
Investigators increasingly are using video surveillance footage from private cameras to help solve crimes.
"Security cameras can serve as our eyes and ears," capturing the moment when a crime is being committed, said Grandview Heights police officer Scott Bruney.
The Grandview Heights Division of Police has launched a voluntary private-security camera-registration program for residents and businesses in the Grandview and Marble Cliff communities with equipment set up on their properties.
The goal of the program is to make it easier for police officers to make use of surveillance video, Bruney said.
"When we are investigating a crime, we'll go door to door to see if any of the neighbors have a security camera," he said. "Often, you can get a view of the crime or the suspect from a camera at an adjacent property."
With the registration program, officers have a list of registered security cameras they can refer to, Bruney said.
"It can help make it more efficient for us if we know that the house next door has a security camera," he said. "We save some time and more quickly access the video."
The program is voluntary, Bruney said.
Twenty-three residents and businesses have signed up since the link to register was posted Aug. 13 on the city's website, Bruney said.
The idea of a surveillance-camera registry was suggested by Grandview Heights City Council member Melanie Houston.
Houston said she had read a story about a similar program Reynoldsburg police had started in March.
"It seemed like a good idea to me and a program we could easily set up in Grandview," she said.
"Police don't know every business or residence that has a security camera," Houston said. "If people can sign up for this program, it's going to help our officers when they are investigating crimes.
"One of the reasons I ran for council was to make sure we're doing everything we can to make our community a safe place for families and our children," she said. "Doing this kind of program is a no-brainer."
"I've been in law enforcement for over 20 years, and when I started, security cameras were common at businesses," Bruney said. "Now there are more and more residences that have security cameras. The doorbell cameras and the technology that allows you to view your camera using your smartphone makes it a lot more convenient for homeowners."
The registration program can be looked at as a high-tech version of the neighborhood watch program, he said.
The registration form for Grandview's program includes information about whether the registrant is a resident or business, plus street address, name, email, phone number and the best contact.
Camera owners will be contacted by police only when officers believe useful surveillance video might be available from their equipment, Bruney said.
The form can be accessed by searching "private security camera registration program" at grandviewheights.org.
Surveillance-camera video doesn't always result in full-proof evidence, but if it captures even grainy footage of a crime being committed, it's a help, Bruney said.
"Sometimes, the footage isn't real clear, so you can't quite make out the suspect's face or the license-plate number on a car," he said.
But criminals often return to the same area to commit their crimes, and surveillance video can give officers a look at the suspect and a time stamp for when an offense has occurred.
"Criminals often have their own schedule for when they target an area and this can help us pinpoint if there's a certain time frame when they're striking," Bruney said.