Home Security Cameras Solving Wyoming Crimes; Police say cameras are ‘an amazing tool’

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By Jimmy Orr and Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

It took Gillette Police Department less than a day to track down the fugitive driver who broke into the home of a Gillette woman last Thursday.

Within 36 hours, the 23-year-old driver received citations for failing to report the crash and driving with a suspended driver’s license.

It was the video footage A neighbour’s security cameras, the police department said, made a difference in the search for the individual.

A few eyewitnesses were able to provide vague but somewhat contradictory descriptions of the car and the driver. But the pictures erased all doubt. The vehicle, the coloring, the mismatched wheels made the car easy to identify as one that crossed a road, into a driveway and then a garage door.

After the video was posted on social media, people stepped in and told police where the car was parked and where the driver lived.

Technology has changed everything

There was a time when the police had to rely solely on eyewitness accounts or a person’s account of the events of a crime. Today, surveillance cameras fill those holes and help law enforcement solve crimes much more efficiently and quickly.

“Before the cameras, you took people at their word and there was no way to prove it,” Riverton Police Captain Wes Romero said. “They have been incredibly helpful in solving crimes and identifying victims.”

For this reason, it has become common practice for law enforcement to search for cameras and search for surveillance footage whenever possible.

Video cameras don’t always capture everything, Romero noted, but they can provide vital clues at a crime scene and help overcome human error and errors in memory or perception.

“Sometimes it (the cameras) produces something, and sometimes it doesn’t,” he said, “and it doesn’t show you everything that happened, but just a slice of the larger story.”

Surveillance footage is a huge help in recording what may have happened when a business is robbed.

It’s also very useful when police are trying to identify a suspect, Romero noted, because they can share an image with the public on social media.

“We get a lot of tips that way,” he said.

Booming trade

Marc Thayer, a former Cheyenne cop and now owner of Corporate Protective Services in Cheyenne, has seen his business grow dramatically since its inception in 1999.

“Many crimes these days are solved by security cameras,” Thayer said.

Improvements in video quality with the switch from analog to digital recording have greatly improved the ability of these devices to record details that may not have been visible with previous recorders. Technological advancements have also made it possible for users to upload videos and post them on social media for more people to see.

“Then you have thousands of eyes watching the incident and resolving it very quickly,” he said.

Over the past two years, Thayer said his company has seen a boom in camera sales. His company also sells alarms, access control devices and fire systems, but cameras are his biggest seller.

“We get calls for camera systems every day,” he said.

It also receives an average of about three calls per week from customers or law enforcement agents requesting video footage of a particular incident.

And while cameras are a great tool, Thayer said people should remain as vigilant as ever when it comes to being aware of their surroundings and protecting their property.

“People don’t realize that even someone diving into a trash can or something is something to watch out for, because you never know who is committing a crime,” he said. “And I hate to say it, but web cams certainly helped and social security systems are really the world we live in today.”

Ted Johnson, technical sales associate at Collins Communications at Gillette, agreed that security systems and surveillance cameras are definitely part of the new world order when it comes to protecting one’s livelihood and property.

There has been more than one occasion where a customer – individuals and businesses – has been able to provide law enforcement with surveillance footage to help solve a crime. Johnson couldn’t provide any specifics, he said, only that it happens frequently.

In many cases, he said, he is contacted by clients who add surveillance after being victims of crime.

In addition to providing law enforcement with after-the-fact evidence, security cameras can also be a great deterrent, according to Byron Oedekoven, executive director of the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police.

He suggests ranchers and rural residents consider using cameras as both a crime prevention and a deterrent, which works well in communities large and small.

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