Toms River, Lakewood Police begin security camera initiative
In the era of 'see something, say something' as law enforcement agencies urge you to speak up if things don't look right, come similar programs out of two Ocean County towns to help combat crime and keep us safe.
How would you like to help catch a criminal?
Police in Toms River and Lakewood are encouraging homeowners and businesses to register their video surveillance systems in a new safety initiative.
Toms River Police Chief Mitch Little says "Operation Watchdog" allows them to more effectively coordinate communication with residents who have surveillance systems which will come in handy during an investigation.
"We can ask them at the time, 'would you mind giving us the information on your surveillance system?', and that would enable us to then plot these on a map from two different sources...from the officer on the street that just handled a crime and then from residents themselves that can actually report in themselves and let us know what they have," Little said.
Officers with permission would go into the home where the footage was recorded and only take what they need for the investigation.
Surveillance footage from a Howell home recently, that went viral on Facebook with the amount of shares, helped lead to the eventual capture of a man who followed a woman home from the mall.
Little envisions "Operation Watchdog" having a similar effect in solving crime in Toms River.
"The way we're catching people is through some good police work going on but the residents themselves are seeing things and posting it and giving it to us," Little said. "From that footage, we can identify people, we have other people identifying those people and there's times where we're getting tens of thousands of 'hits' on Facebook with people saying 'I think I know this person' and that's how we're finding them."
Police will be able to locate your home or business on a map and know where to look for a suspect.
"We will be able to plot the residence or business on a map and then literally put a circle around where the incident occurred and we can try to determine where the suspect may have gone," Little said. "We can then go to those locations and knock on the person's door and ask 'would you mind if we looked at your video to see if this person actually went past your house?'"
He says one of the ways surveillance can help is by capturing a license plate on a suspects car passing your home of business.
"This is another way for us to actually see exactly what they saw by capturing some of that video," Little said.
He says this partnership with the community is important in continuing to solve crimes.
"We can't do this ourselves, we need our 100,000 residents to help us and call when they see something or let us see some video," Little said.
If your equipment was able to record pertinent information, police will arrange a convenient time and day to retrieve the footage from you.
Little says your participation in Operation Watch Dog is 100% voluntary and your personal information will be kept confidential and not for public dissemination.
Only law enforcement personnel can view the surveillance footage.
If you would like to participate in this program you are encouraged to register your cameras at no cost by going to the police department's website and choosing the Operation Watchdog link at www.trpolice.org.
There is also a program in Lakewood called 'REC' Register Every Camera which mirrors what Toms River Police are doing.
"Investigations frequently involve officers and/or detectives canvassing neighborhoods looking for cameras. Knowing ahead of time where cameras are located greatly speeds investigations by allowing our officers and/or detectives to prioritize where to begin looking for evidence," Lakewood Police Chief Greg Meyer said. "Many times the best available video evidence isn't of the crime itself, but of pathways and streets leading into and out of the scene."
Any resident or business that has a camera(s) on their property can register them with the police department at www.lakewoodpolicenj.com or in person at the front window of the station located at 231 Third Street.
Once the information is obtained it will be entered into a secured database for future reference and your address will be noted in their house system.
Participation in this partnership is completely voluntary.
"All registered information will be kept confidential and will only be viewed by authorized Lakewood Police Department personnel," Meyer said. "We are not asking to and will not monitor your camera system. This is strictly to be used as an investigative tool to aide officers and detectives."
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