Want to help police catch the bad guys? There’s an app for that.
Smartphones tied into the owner’s Internet based home video surveillance cameras have allowed Manteca Police in several instances to nab suspects while burglaries are in progress.
Police Chief Nick Obligacion related instances where callers to 9-1-1 alerted law enforcement to a burglary in progress at their home while they were away. The callers stayed on the line while relaying in real-time what they saw on their phone screen to responding officers via the police dispatcher.
It is just one of the ways that everything from body cameras to surveillance cameras help combat crime.
Body cameras are being credited with nearly a 14 percent drop in use of force complaints against Manteca Police officers.
The $300 body cameras that were issued to all uniformed Manteca Police officers in May is a big reason for the drop in use of force complaints, according to Obligacion.
Obligacion said when many suspects see the body cameras when they encounter police officers they are often more cooperative during arrests.
And even when they are not the cameras offer a perspective on disputed encounters between officers and the public.
Such was the case in an altercation between a Manteca patrol officer and a homeless individual at a car wash earlier this year. While Obligacion could not discuss the case due to pending litigation, at the time the department released footage from the officer’s body camera that countered a version of the incident that the suspect claimed happened when TV reporters did a story.
The footage showed the officer calmly and professionally addressing the suspect to get him to wake up and remove himself from the premises. The camera recorded the ensuing struggle after the suspect grabbed the officer’s genitals and held on.
“We were well ahead of the curve,” Obligacion said of the Manteca City Council’s decision to pay for police officer body cameras.
A growing number of elected and community leaders are calling for departments to issue the cameras to officers in the light of protests over deadly encounters between officers and suspects.
Manteca had 31 use of force complaints as of Oct. 31, compared to 36 for the first 10 months of 2013. There were 41 such complaints in 2013.
The cameras are in addition to dash video cameras in police units.
The dash video cameras have been effective at resolving disputes after arrests and traffic tickets being contested.
As an example, one such camera on a motorcycle unit was used to show the parent of a teen who complained to Obligacion that their daughter was wrongfully ticket after she said she came to a complete stop at a stop sign. Instead, the recording clearly shows her not slowing down for the stop sign.
The city still plans to add additional video cameras in city parks and other places when storage costs drop farther. The first parks that have been targeted by the City Council are Library Park and Southside Park.
Even though the council authorized them nearly five years ago, the department hasn’t been able to move forward with them.
That’s because state law requires all police video recordings to be saved for 365 days since they fall under public record laws.
Unlike body cameras and dash videos that are activated before an officer encounters a suspect, surveillance cameras operate 24/7.
Obligacion is confident storage costs will drop enough in the coming years to allow cameras to be placed in parks.
“They are another part of the puzzle,” Obligacion said.
They provide footage that can often be used to identify suspects and make arrests. They also in a number of cases serve as deterrents.
“Many criminals when they see a video camera will think twice,” the police chief said.
Obligacion strongly recommends businesses install video surveillance cameras. Unlike law enforcement, they can record over the tape as often as once a day if they so desire.
He noted sometimes even if they can’t get a clear facial image the color and type of clothes a suspect is wearing can often provide critical details that ultimately can lead to an arrest.