It didn’t take long for a nascent program to register residential cameras with the Gulf Shores Police Department to prove its usefulness, Det. Mike Hoguet said.
“It actually helped out tremendously in a recent burglary investigation where we noticed a neighbor had video on their house, so we went and talked to them,” Hoguet said. “The neighbor was able to research his video and actually had the suspect and his truck on video.”
While the neighbor wasn’t registered at the time of the break-in, Hoguet said he was one of the first to do so and served as a great example of how helpful it can be.
Hoguet said officers used the date and time from the residential system and looked at other area surveillance systems to help build their case in this instance.
“We’re not completely resolved on that burglary case, but that residential video put us on the path to find out who the suspect was,” Hoguet said. “If it wasn’t for that video we would not have any information on where to look and who that suspect was.”
Gulf Shores announced its program about three weeks ago, and has since signed up about a dozen residents. They are recruiting residents through the department’s website and Facebook page.
It’s a growing trend in community policing, Hoguet said. Project Shield in Mobile uses cameras at businesses, schools, living communities and other establishments throughout the city. Pensacola Police started a similar program in February and are asking businesses and residents to register their systems.
“I don’t know if they are using it the way we are,” Hoguet said. “I think most cities have a list of businesses that have videos. What we’re doing is partnering with our residents to make a communitywide database so we can have an indication of where we can go to pick up video if a crime occurs in a certain area.”
In Baldwin County, police departments in Bay Minette and Daphne are discussing starting similar programs, and Fairhope is looking to expand a program there.
“As we interact with residents, we do collect contact information of those who have cameras,” Fairhope Police Chief Stephanie Hollinghead said. “However, we hope to have something more formal and online in the near future.”
Hoguet said he first got the idea from a friend at another agency and used that program to formulate the one for Gulf Shores.
“He was kind enough to provide me with their policies and procedures and how they built their program,” he said. “We were able to modify it to access the needs of our community. Right now, it’s just a few weeks old and we’re still trying to push it out so we don’t have as many as I’d like, but we have 10 or 15 now.”
The surveillance program is just one of several outreach programs Gulf Shores has, Hoguet said.
“No police agency can be successful without the support of the community,” Police Chief Ed Delmore said. “We enjoy a tremendous amount of support and assistance from our residents. This program allows us to take our partnership to another level.”
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