Extra Eyes

IMG_1234_croppedBy SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK – The Extra Eyes Camera Program may help police investigate and prosecute crimes more effectively through the creation of a voluntary registry of outside security cameras citywide.

Police Detective Jim Thorburn said he thought of establishing a registry of private outdoor surveillance camera in 2014 when he was investigating a homicide.

“At 3:40 a.m., I am walking house to house looking to see who has a camera,” Thorburn said. “That’s something (where) you want to ask for the information right then and there.”

Thorburn said the Troy Police Department has a registry, and it shared program pros and cons with him, after which Police Chief James Wilkewitz urged him to create a citywide registry.

“The idea being that we can identify criminals,” Thorburn said. “A picture speaks a thousand words. It’s super efficient, and more effective for us not to go house-to-house. We can just call or contact you.”

He said it is a great tool to link people to crimes, and if he has a video of someone breaking into a house, and brings them in and shows them the video, the interview time becomes much shorter.

Thorburn said videos also help the police tie suspects to other similar crimes.

The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, which prosecutes more than 52 percent of all felony cases in Michigan, is highly receptive of video evidence for criminal prosecutions, Thorburn said.

“If there is a video, they want to see it,” he said. “We can download it straight to their server, and they can watch it. So it speeds everything up for us.

“They review it, and they authorize charges, or they don’t authorize charges. But if they have a video, it’s pretty easy to make a determination at that point.”

The Police Department will not remotely access anyone’s security system, Thorburn said.

“We cannot link into your system,” he said. “We cannot tap into your system. We have no desire to ever do that. That’s some of these big concerns – Big Brother, 1984, ‘Everybody’s watching.’”

When a residents register outdoor surveillance cameras with the department, they fill out an information form, which is confidentially filed, and residents can opt out at any time.

Forms are available at the Police Department, 16630 Southfield Road.

“A community partnership is what I like to think of it as,” Thorburn said.

Thorburn said some break-ins begin with criminals knocking on doors and seeing whether anyone is home. Cameras in multiple locations may detect the same person approaching other houses before selecting a target.

If cameras face the street, they can help with crash investigations, or if a parked car is damaged.

Footage can help also the Fire Department determine the sequence of a fire, or possible origin.

“The biggest thing is it gives our community a dynamic of comfort,” Thorburn said. “Everybody looking out for each other. If all of our eyes are looking out for each other, we are going to be a whole lot better than if they aren’t, and that’s our goal.”

If the police need help identifying a suspect, they have the option of posting an image on social media. They also can share the image with other law enforcement agencies which might recognize the suspect.

Doorbell camera sensors, costing $200 or more, operate off house current or batteries, and can be based on heat detection and motion at a fixed distance, so they don’t pick up every moving branch or passing car.

Images can be accessed remotely via cell phone or laptop, and people can talk to a person at their door using the Windows 10 software through the doorbell camera sensor.

Other outdoor security surveillance systems, starting at $500, can be wired in or wireless, typically offer four cameras, with day and night vision, and video image recording.

Phil Glinka, manager at Allen Park Best Buy, 3349 Fairlane Drive, said his store offers a 10 percent discount to residents on security cameras, and they also match the sale prices of other stores.

For more information on the Extra Eyes program, go to cityofallenpark.org/Services-Departments/Police-Department/Extra-Eyes-Camera-Registry.aspx, or contact Thorburn at 313-386-6377 or by email at jthorburn@allenparkpolice.org. 
    (Sue Suchyta can be reached at sue.suchyta@yahoo.com.)