Surveillance cameras help law enforcement |

Surveillance cameras help law enforcement

Carson City Sheriff's Office Capt. Brian Humphrey looks at surveillance video from a local business.
By Taylor Pettaway/Nevada Appeal

Tips for having surveillance Cameras

Upgrade the software so the footage is as clear as possible

Camera placement matters: Put cameras facing entryways, such as front doors, back doors and garages. Also make sure the camera is at an angle to capture the suspect’s face.

Use motion activation with cameras

Make sure it has night vision or is near a well-lit area

Make sure the footage is recorded, stored and can be accessed at a later time

For many law enforcement agencies, there’s one simple tool that can be instrumental in helping them crack cases: surveillance cameras.

While Carson City crime rates are fairly low, the addition of surveillance cameras on businesses and residences can significantly help investigators identify and solidify prosecution of crimes.

“The use of video and photos from surveillance cameras on private residences and businesses is quickly becoming an effective tool for investigators,” said Capt. Brian Humphrey, head of investigations at the Carson City Sheriff’s Office. “It isn’t a new concept, but technological advances have become such an advantage that in lots of crimes, that is the first thing investigators look for if there is video.”

For investigators, places having good surveillance can help pick out important details on suspects or suspects’ vehicles that can increase chances of an arrest. In addition, having surveillance in place can help rule out non-suspects and provide possible witnesses in the area of a crime. And, cameras are more reliable than human witnesses who may not have seen or can’t remember details of a crime, whereas cameras capture the entirety of an incident.

“They don’t replace the hard work of investigators, it is just another tool to use to help point us in the right direction in identifying a suspect or a witness,” Humphrey said. “Videos and photos of anything involved increases the probability of solving the crime tremendously.”

Having cameras can be important in a wide range of crimes from thefts and burglaries to hit and runs and more serious crimes.

“Video and photos allow us to solve crimes that may not get solved any other way,” Humphrey said. “While we have other investigative tools such as fingerprints, DNA and more, but video gives us an extra advantage.”

In addition to helping the investigation, video and photo footage helps significantly speed up the criminal justice process with an incident.

“One thing I have seen is that it is quicker from identifying a suspect all the way to the end of prosecution,” Humphrey said. “Cases get resolved easier and much quicker when you have visual footage of the event.”

But, Humphrey said, just having cameras isn’t enough. He said they often see properties with outdated cameras so the footage is too grainy, the camera placement is off or footage isn’t actually recorded to go back for review.

“For us, the advantage of quality cameras is actually being able to detect features of a person or vehicle to identify whether that is their clothes, faces, a vehicle in the parking lot,” Humphrey said, “It is hard to tell what a vehicle color is, much less a license plate (if it is grainy footage). If you have a poor system with poor quality, you may as well not have a camera because it does no good for us.”

For residences and businesses alike, there are a number of camera features to help keep properties safe. For example, there are systems that include audio and visual surveillance so the property owner can speak through the system, cameras with motion detection that send an alert to the owner’s cell phone, and more.

“So with some of these advances, not only do the cameras deter crime, but they actually can help reduce it,” Humphrey said. “It also helps the documentation and execution of criminal information for investigators.”

But, properties don’t have to be overrun with cameras to be effective. Humphrey said even one or two cameras placed at the entryways can get the job done.

“While we enjoy low crime rates in Carson City and a low theft rate, things still happen and this helps,” Humphrey said.