Citizens get in on sleuthing

CRANFORD, NJ — It’s common for police departments to sift through security footage from a local business to help solve a crime and now, with the recent rise in popularity of private security cameras, local residents can participate and assist police in a whole new way.

The Cranford Police Department recently launched the Cranford Civilian Cam Program, allowing businesses and homeowners to voluntarily register their surveillance cameras systems with the township. It is one of the first police departments in Union County to implement such a program.

“Many crimes are solved due to camera footage, believe it or not,” Detective Lt. Edward Davenport said in a phone interview on May 3. “And now many residents have Ring, which captures video outside of their homes and on the streets.”
Ring is a doorbell system that utilizes cameras and motion sensors.

“People are not always aware that their system may have captured information that could help solve a crime that happened nearby, thus keeping our community safer,” Davenport added.

He said that private residential cameras are especially helpful when it comes to carjackings and burglaries because they often occur outside a house or business.

“These cameras are just another tool for the department to use,” he added.
For instances in which a civilian camera may have footage of a crime, residents do have the option to deny police access to the footage, so the registry pinpoints businesses and homes that are willing to assist police.
“By registering your camera with us, the department can quickly identify nearby cameras that may have captured criminal activity,” Davenport said. “Having a pin map of voluntary sign ups will make it easier.”

Scotch Plains, Rahway and Linden are among the other municipalities that have similar camera-registration programs, and neighboring Union solved a crime with the help of a home-surveillance camera last year, although it does not have an official camera registry.

In August, Rasheed Waller, 39, of Newark, who was sought by Union police for unrelated offenses, was identified and charged with robbing a woman at gunpoint on a street in the Vauxhall neighborhood after a homeowner’s camera caught the robbery on video, officials said in a press release. With the victim’s assistance, officers retraced her steps and found the location of the robbery marked by where she had dropped her coffee in the street. A local resident’s home-surveillance system had recorded the crime and the resident shared the footage with officers, the release said.

Cranford’s registry does not allow officers to access private cameras remotely, according to Davenport, who said several businesses and residents have already signed up for the program.

The directory is confidential and can only be accessed by law enforcement, and the CPD will be able to directly contact citizens in an area where a crime occurred, thanks to having the locations of the registered cameras, Davenport said.
Residents and businesses may register their cameras on the department’s website at https://www.cranfordnj.org/cranford-police-department or pick up an application at Cranford Police Headquarters at 8 Springfield Ave.

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