Archive for Monday, July 23, 2007

Security cameras put eye on crime

Law enforcement officials see benefits of businesses with monitoring systems

July 23, 2007


Jack Proctor, sales manager at Rueschoff Security Systems, talks about the types and qualities of various security camera systems and monitoring equipment. Proctor was viewing a monitor display of nine security cameras at Rueschoff's offices Wednesday. .

Jack Proctor, sales manager at Rueschoff Security Systems, talks about the types and qualities of various security camera systems and monitoring equipment. Proctor was viewing a monitor display of nine security cameras at Rueschoff's offices Wednesday. .

A sign informs people that they may be recorded if they enter a property.

A sign informs people that they may be recorded if they enter a property.

Helping police catch an attempted murder suspect was the last thing on an Ottawa convenience store owner's mind when he installed a new surveillance system.

But on the night of Dec. 19, 2006, the cameras at Chuck Waymire's business were rolling - much to the delight of police as they investigated a shooting.

Moments after Michael S. Miller was shot and left in the street that night in the 1500 block of South Hickory Street, a woman used a pay phone outside Waymire's business, a Valero gasoline station and Stop N Shop.

"The Ottawa police had come in here and wanted to know if there was any way that we would have known who made a call out there at 10:45 p.m.," Waymire recalled. "That's the only thing they knew - a telephone number at such and such time."

Although the station was closed, his 14 security cameras were recording images, including one that later helped authorities apprehend Lisa Winter.

"You could see the lady come up, and the blue van that picked her up," Waymire said.

Crime-fighting cameras

Digital surveillance systems like Waymire's are becoming more common as costs drop and technology advances. The systems also are proving to be a good tool for law enforcement and prosecutors.

"We were excited," Waymire said. "This was real new to us : this was the second or third week that we had (the system)."

Miller was shot hours before he was scheduled to testify against Louis G. Galloway in an aggravated battery trial in Lawrence. Galloway, 43, Lawrence, had been charged with battering Miller, 48, in 2005. He was convicted of those charges in February.

After Miller's shooting, Winter, 38, and Lee Roy House, 44, Kay F. Gaillard-Taylor, 49, and Jeffrey A. Campbell, 29, all of the Lawrence area, were charged with attempted first-degree murder and conspiracy.

Winter, who pleaded no contest to attempted second-degree murder charges, is scheduled to be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 6, while House has been ordered to serve a three-year prison term. The other two cases still are being prosecuted.

Cost of surveillance

Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said video surveillance has helped prosecutors in his office with several cases.

"(Video) has helped identify the suspects and led to convictions once the defendants saw themselves," Branson said.

But quality is key.

Low-end equipment provides poor images, according to Jack Proctor of Rueschhoff Security Systems in Lawrence. Insufficient lighting and reuse of videotapes over time also reduce quality.

Business owners can spend between $100 and $700 each on cameras. But in a digital system, the real cost lies in the recorder, Proctor said. Consumers can expect to pay between $3,000 and $5,000 for a digital video recorder, he said.

The district attorney's office wants business owners to see quality equipment as an investment in safety.

"With the digital age, we're hoping that more people will upgrade their systems and invest in some better hardware," Branson said. "That way, we can get better images for their cases."

Mark Visbal, director of research and technology for the Security Industry Association, estimates that within five years, analog video formats - those that use VHS videotapes - will be obsolete and their grainy, often unidentifiable images will be a thing of the past.

'It will pay for itself'

Waymire said his video system helps in situations far less dramatic than an attempted-murder investigation.

The system records people who drive away without paying for their gasoline. And because cameras at the cash registers are continuously recording, they can identify bad-check writers. Each time a customer writes a check, a cashier writes the time and date on the check. If the check bounces, Waymire can print a still photo from the surveillance video that is distributed to cashiers.

At 76, Waymire doesn't consider himself a technology expert, but he said the system has been surprisingly simple to use.

"Really, it will pay for itself," he said. "It's the best money I've ever spent."

It's been so valuable, Waymire said, he plans to add two cameras at the business later this year.


lounger 10 years, 6 months ago

BIg Brother is presented with a softer image. Its still BIG BROTHER!!!

Ragingbear 10 years, 6 months ago

Now in High-Def format! Soon, you will be able to see clips on Youtube of that chick taking a pee in a mini-mart aisle with breath-taking clarity and life like color and detail. You perv.

Joe Hyde 10 years, 6 months ago

Anyone who works retail in any way, shape or form -- or who has a kid or relative who works retail -- breathes a little easier knowing that surveillance systems are recording cash register transactions, door entries, even parking lot activity.

I worked retail for six years. Twice I was robbed, both times when I was working alone. No surveillance system was in place. The second robbery, I was very lucky I didn't get assaulted (because two weeks later, right across the street, a gas station was robbed by the same perps, except the gas station attendant got hit in the head with a lead pipe).

I realize that camera systems can be, and sometimes are, abused. Still, I feel nothing but admiration and gratitude for responsible business owners who go the extra mile to protect their employees -- and their customers -- by installing quality surveillance systems.

In my retail experience, the worst post-traumatic stress aspect for me was feeling that my employer suspected me of taking the money. Whereas had a surveillance system been in place, the police would likely have bagged the tapes, had evidence of the theft, caught the perps quickly and I'd have enjoyed the special closure a victim feels when hearing a judge sentence these a--holes to prison terms.

TheHeartlessBureaucrat 10 years, 6 months ago

KO crime. That is MOSTLY a very good point. I feel the same thing. If a camera catches me just a-wandering down the street, there's nothing to worry about. The problem is "how will that be used" and if the perception of "not doing anything wrong" changes over time. What used to be just fine could be distorted or modified at a later date and used against you.

Do I REALLY think this will happen? Naaawww...but it might.

Let's just say my good friend AL and I are out driving around looking for a place to have some tea. A few years later, Al is busted for being in a Terrorist organization and I'm on tape riding around with him. Suddenly, I'm being investigated...big ol leather bag is thrown over my head, I'm held in a prison someplace hot and humid indefinitely. Yeah, I know it sounds like something out of a book, doesn't it? It's not probable, but it's not impossible.

So...I'm glad we're using this information to get the bad guys. Hopefully it will be used just for getting badguys...and not as a tool of dillusion.


Wilbur_Nether 10 years, 6 months ago

kocrime wondered "You should only have problems with 'big brother' watching what you do in public places if you're doing something wrong. If you're not doing anything wrong, why would it bother you that cameras record what's going on?" and b3 added "They can videotape me, tap my phone, I dont have anything to hide. Now those pot smoking liberals, they might be worried about getting caught or their terrorist buddies getting caught doing something illegal."

The question isn't whether one is doing anything to be hidden. The question is regarding the expectation of privacy created by the 4th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which requires the government to have probable cause to investigate its citizens. Hence, Defender's response.

gr 10 years, 5 months ago

"If you're not doing anything wrong, why would it bother you that cameras record what's going on?"

As a way to combat obesity, scales should be installed in the sidewalks. As people walk over them, they announce your weight.

Why should it bother anyone if they aren't doing anything wrong?

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