The Elgin Police Department is asking residents and business owners to let them know if they have surveillance cameras, so that if a crime takes place, police know where to look quickly for potential evidence.
And to help people learn more about surveillance systems, the police department will offer its first "Security through Surveillance" class on June 22, Elgin Police Sgt. James Bisceglie said.
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Police won't have access to any private surveillance systems without owners' consent, he said.
"This isn't 'Big Brother' watching out," Bisceglie said. "It's the police department more efficiently learning where those (cameras) are so they could be used for investigations."
Video surveillance can be priceless, Elgin Police Det. Tom Wolek said.
Such evidence from a convenience store was key to solving a 2009 gang-related murder for which three men are now serving time in prison, he said. "Because of surveillance footage, we broke the case wide open," he said.
Video surveillance can be also be used as evidence in traffic accidents or missing person cases, Bisceglie pointed out.
A handful of other police departments across the country, including Chicago's, ask their residents to inform them of the location of their surveillance systems, he said.
The June 22 class will include topics such as camera selection and placement, footage storage options, and how to use already-installed cameras to help in police investigations.
The class is free to residents and business owners, who can also ask for on-site, hands-on help from police, he said.
Surveillance systems have become more common as the technology improves while decreasing in price, Wolek said. Eight-camera systems can be found for $300 to $400, he said.
But too often police find that potential video evidence can't be used because the date and time settings are wrong, or a camera is broken, Bisceglie said. Sometimes, the surveillance systems aren't even set up, he said.
"When we go get evidence (during investigations) people always ask, 'What can I do to help better?'"
Reinhold Seidler, co-owner of Able-Fox Automotive in Elgin, said he installed four surveillance cameras when gang tensions escalated in the neighborhood last summer.
"I frequently have a lot of expensive cars in my parking lot and in my shop overnight, and I feel a lot safer now," he said.
Just a few days after the installation, a shooting took place across the street, though his cameras didn't capture it on video, he said.
Seidler plans to attend the June 22 training. "I think every business owner in Elgin should take part in it," he said.
"The more security cameras we have, the better for all of us -- and the safer the marketplace."
The "Security Through Surveillance" free class is 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, June 22, in the training room of the Elgin Police Department, 151 Douglas Ave. in Elgin.
To register your surveillance system or to register for the class, call the technical investigations unit at (847) 289-2971, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit [URL]cityofelgin.org/sts.;http://www.cityofelgin.org/index.aspx?NID=1671[URL][/URL]