Good Question: Are Cameras Cracking Crimes?

Written by Alan Gionet

DENVER (CBS4) – Danny Stroud went to bed one night with his cameras running. As they slept two men slipped into his garage and went on a spree, sorting through things picking out what they wanted to steal.

“They took stuff that I call flea market stuff. They took tools, they took a lot of stuff out of my Harley Davidson,” Stroud said.

But they didn’t take his Harley — probably too noisy. They spent a half hour in his garage. While they took from him, he took from them. Night-vision-capable cameras took their images. The burglars eventually realized it, but it was too late.

“Even though they disabled the camera, they could have stolen the camera completely, the images were already recorded on a hard drive in my house,” said Stroud.

Those images helped police gain some proof as they built their case. Eventually it led to a name and the arrest of 32-year-old Thomas Page. Page’s arrest record, including prior thefts, runs 12 pages. This time investigators think they have a strong case.

“The technology, it’s incredible, it’s a huge help to us,” said Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey. “Many burglaries just go unsolved. ‘I’m sorry, we have no leads, we have no tips.’ But if you have something and you can work with it …”

Morrissey loves the new era of cheaper home security video.

“A jury can see the person committing the crime, see them touch the area where you lifted the fingerprints, or maybe using the telephone where you got the DNA,” he said. “It all ties together, it’s like putting a puzzle together for the jury.”

The increase in quality has been one of the biggest breakthroughs. Years ago video cameras brought in blurry pictures and there was little, if any reliable video at night when many burglaries are committed.

“When home security systems started they were a couple thousand dollars to get cameras and stuff like that,” said Brent Gill of the Best Buy store on Colorado Boulevard. “Now they’re $300, $400, $500. You can get one with seven cameras for like $600.”

Gill pointed to our cellphones as he talked about why they’re cheaper and better. A great deal of effort has been put into creating better cellphone cameras with better low-light capability.

Many of the security cameras are now rimmed with infrared lights that give them remarkable night vision.

“All these are going to work wirelessly as well, so with your Wi-Fi network,” Gill said.

The cameras can record to an SD drive or transmit to a storage drive, your hard drive in your computer, or to your cellphone, then up to a cloud. And the cameras are getting smaller.

“I think it’s inconspicuous, so it doesn’t look like big gaudy cameras hanging all around the house,” said shopper Eric Gerwig, who was buying a camera to put on his house.

“It might just be that one videotape that breaks open a whole number of burglaries in that area, or gets us a ring of burglars,” Morrissey said.

In Boulder County cameras placed outside to capture wildlife served double purpose last year. The homeowner also caught crystal clear images of four guys burglarizing the house. One of the men, allegedly Uriel Rodriguez Lopez, was holding an air rifle stolen from the house. That will make it easier say investigators to show who broke in. One other man has been arrested in the case and two others remain at-large.

It was somewhat the same with the break-in at Danny Stroud’s. Police say one of the people in the garage is nowhere to be found. But they’ve built a case against Thomas Page. An affidavit shows information that Page and his girlfriend were using meth. Stroud doesn’t expect to get much of his stuff back, but he has something – the images that built the case.

“We’re not going to stand for it,” said Stroud. “We’re going to watch and we’re going to take your picture if you’re stealing our stuff, and we’re going to turn it into the police.”


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