Deputies ask homeowners to register surveillance cameras to speed investigations

OLYMPIA, Wash. – A new program in the South Sound is hoping to give police an edge when trying to solve property crimes.

Called the ‘Community Outreach Video Surveillance Program,’ the project hopes to build a database of homeowners who have cameras, helping give detectives quick access to footage in the event of a crime.

The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office says the program is completely voluntary and deputies won’t have electronic access to your surveillance system -- but some aren’t ready to share that kind of information with law enforcement.

“There are cameras everywhere these days,” said Chief Dave Pearsall. “People don’t realize they’re even being recorded.”

Ranging from doorbell cameras to high-tech multi-camera systems, surveillance cameras are a tried and true way for police to help identify crooks trying to get away with your stuff.

“Surveillance cameras have really moved into the homes a lot, so that’s why we’re hoping it’s going to help us,” said Pearsall.

The new program asks homeowners with surveillance systems to register in a non-public database so deputies can more quickly identify where to look for clues if crooks strike in your neighborhood.

“It’s a totally volunteer system, we’re not doing anything to electronically tap into anybody’s surveillance,” said Pearsall. “It’s just a matter of them looking at their own footage and giving it to us so we can use it in an investigation.”

The sheriff’s office says crooks don’t pay any attention to whether they’re burglarizing a house in the city or the county, that’s why they’re allowing people living in Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater to join the program.

“When I was on vacation I called home and my brother said the mailboxes were broken into,” said Tiffany Odom, who lives in Lacey.

Thankfully Odom did not get taken by identity thieves when crooks busted into her mailbox. She says her home doesn’t have cameras but she’s not sure she’s ready to tell detectives if she gets one.

“Me personally, I don’t think I would sign up for it,” she said. “If I had a camera, I wouldn’t be opposed to someone using the footage if something happened.”

Deputies say the program is totally dependent on homeowners going through their recording device and providing investigators with relevant video.

If cameras catch any evidence on tape, the homeowner would be asked to download a copy and share it with detectives so they can track down the crook.

“This is a low-cost, pretty much cost-neutral program that we want to implement, that we’re not having to go out to purchase something big to make it happen,” said Pearsall.

Still, some think fighting crime in their neighborhoods can be best done the old-fashioned way -- by keeping a close watch on who might be lurking around the block.

“There’s so many housewives in this neighborhood, I don’t see how much happens around here,” said Odom. “It’s nosy-neighbor town.”

The program is free and deputies insist none of the personal information logged by program participants will be made public.