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The Belle Plaine Police Department is hoping the public will get involved in their latest crime-fighting project, which asks those with doorbell or other domestic cameras to allow police access to footage during investigations.

If you happen to have an outside video security system or a doorbell camera in use at your home or place of business, the Belle Plaine Police Department is asking you to convey that information to them.

In an effort to better serve and protect the community, you can register your camera by taking a seven-question survey, available online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/D3NMX9T.

Those who register may be contacted and asked if they are willing to help share video surveillance footage if a crime occurs in the vicinity of the camera.

“We currently have 20 residents with camera systems registered,” Belle Plaine Police Chief Tom Stolee said. “The cameras provide great assistance for us; if we have a crime or incident occur in an area that a resident is registered in, we can call and ask if they could check their camera system for us.”

Anyone who registers a security camera will only be contacted and asked to share video footage when there’s an investigation concerning a nearby crime that could use some insight, so privacy-minded citizens can rest easy.

According to a University of North Carolina-Charlotte study, 60 percent of convicted burglars would look for security cameras before moving forward to commit a crime. Also, 40 percent of burglars said that the presence of security cameras would motivate them to seek a less problematic burglary target.

Another study done by the Los Angeles Police Department conducted between two neighborhoods, one with video surveillance and the other without, found a 50 percent reduction in burglaries in the neighborhood with the doorbell camera, while the other side saw no changes.

Several companies have created apps which are being referred to as the new neighborhood watch. The app allows communities to post footage of neighborhood concerns as well as comment about crime and safety events.

The police also like to point out that allowing them access to your personal footage is done so strictly on a volunteer basis.

The camera registry program will remain both confidential and private. Having the community participate in the program is like having an extra set of eyes and ears in the neighborhood for finding people and solving crimes, Belle Plaine police say.

“Crime Prevention Officer Sterling Cayer has done a great job of setting this program up,” Chief Stolee said.  “Working together to make a difference is rewarding and the camera registration program compliments other programs we already have in place perfectly.”

Not only do the cameras offer crime prevention strategies, but if cameras face the street, they can help with crash investigations or if a parked car is damaged. Footage can also help the fire department establish the sequence of a fire or probable origin.

Not everyone is a fan of surveillance camera footage being used this way, as invasions of privacy are often on the minds of the public. In some cases, people post footage of an alleged crime without verifying information, which can lead to misinformation. Such footage can cause mass hysteria,  portray someone unfairly and make the person who posted it a target for retaliation or lawsuits.

“We would never ask to have the capability to live stream someone’s camera,” Chief Stolee said. “With systems out right now like the Ring doorbell and cameras, it is possible for an individual to send that to an officer via text or email.  It is a great opportunity for us to network with our citizens and give them a stake in helping to keep the City of Belle Plaine safer.”

The extra eyes of the outside camera registry program may help police investigate and prosecute crimes more effectively if enough people participate in the program. The camera registry program also helps law enforcement be that much quicker and more efficient in the field.

It has the added benefit of being a more effective crime solving tool, replacing the old school shoe leather detective work of house-to-house inquires. With the camera registry program in place, now police can just call or contact you.

It always works as a great tool when linking someone to a crime. If a video can be shown of someone breaking into a house, and you bring that person in and show them the video, end of story; the interview time becomes much shorter.

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