Warrenton police starting ‘community camera’ program

By: 
Adam Rollins
Staff Writer

The Warrenton Police Department is asking residents and business owners to help address community crime in a new way. The department is launching a program  to voluntarily register the location of video cameras around the community.

Dubbed the “community camera program,” the initiative will allow people with cameras outside their home, business or other property to voluntarily provide the address of the camera and their contact information to police.

Then, whenever police are investigating a crime nearby, they can ask camera owners to provide access to their videos, said Police Lt. Justin Unger. He said video evidence can help catch people involved in things like burglaries and car break-ins.

“If you’ve got a suspect video, a suspect description, a direction of travel, things like that are very beneficial. That’s one of the leads we can follow,” Unger said.

Any homeowners or businesses that want to register a camera for the program can email Detective Sgt. Jason Hanner at jhanner@warrenton-mo.org. He and Lt. Unger will be the only officers with direct access to the camera registry list, Unger said.

The city of Warrenton will also eventually add a direct signup link to its website, www.warrenton-mo.org.

Unger said the community camera program is an extension of what police already do when investigating a crime: going door-to-door to ask for any helpful information or video. The program is completely voluntary, and will not involve giving police remote access to any cameras, Unger said.

“This isn’t something we want to force anyone to do. This isn’t to watch people,” Unger commented. “(The program) is so if there’s any problems in the neighborhood, we can help.”

If officers do believe nearby cameras may have captured video of a crime or culprit, Unger said police will contact the camera owner and ask to watch their video. If there’s something of interest, police will make a copy of the video for evidence.

Despite reassurance that the community camera program will operate on a voluntary basis, at least one person reacted negatively when the police department announced the program on its Facebook page.

“We don’t need cameras watching everything we do. You do this you sign away your rights,” the Facebook commenter said.

“We are firm believers in citizens maintaining their rights,” the police department replied. “We’d also like to catch the people victimizing those same citizens.”

Truesdale Police Chief Casey Doyle said he is considering a similar program in Truesdale. He said images of criminal suspects can be shared among police departments to track down suspects from outside an area.

“We work pretty closely with other agencies. So if there’s a burglary in Wright City, it’s not going to take but a few hours ... before I’m getting a phone call (and photos) from their detective,” Doyle said. “I may deal with somebody on a daily basis that they’ve never seen before, and we can share that information. That’s a big way to solve crimes.”

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