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Litter cams aid police in other ways
Cameras have helped stop various other crimes, police say
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
“A picture is worth a thousand words,” Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry said. That saying rings true due to the success of a half-dozen cameras the county bought to catch litterers.
Perry explained the cameras are doing double — maybe even triple duty — by helping curtail other crimes as well.
“Littering was certainly the intent of the cameras, but we’ve also caught some scrap metal thieves,” he said. “And one of the things we are very pleased with: We’ve found drug dealers meeting in out-of-the-way places, cul-de-sacs and what have you, selling drugs.”
The Henry County Board of Supervisors agreed in March to take $5,000 from its contingency fund to buy the cameras to help deter and hopefully combat littering.
Perry said his office bought six cameras and the other items needed to use and set them up.
“We thought they were going to be worthwhile, and we were hoping they were going to be worthwhile for what we paid for them,” he said, adding they cost about $425 each.
“But the cameras actually have exceeded our expectations” by helping law enforcement with other crimes, he said.
“We actually have cameras we’re trying to use to catch the people vandalizing the store windows in Collinsville,” Perry said. “Overall, we’ve been very pleased with the cameras.”
As a result of the cameras, 13 people have been charged with litter offenses and all have been convicted, according to Henry County Sheriff’s Officer M.W. Hooper.
“For the most part, offenders are “getting $250 fines,” he added.
The county changed its litter ordinance in May to more closely mirror state law, according to previous reports.
According to information from the General District Court, fines that are collected from offenders are remitted to the Virginia Department of the Treasury and then split as appropriate.
The cameras even work in the dark.
“We recently had an individual in court” who was convicted as a result of litter photos that were taken at night, he said.
Perry said photos taken by the cameras are clear. The cameras also have infrared capabilities, and their technology allows law enforcement to “see” virtually in real time.
“As soon as something or someone activates a camera, we immediately get an email with the picture, so if someone tries to do something with a camera or if someone is trying to thwart (the system), the evidence already has been obtained,” he said.
When Hooper charges someone with littering, he typically goes to the person’s home.
“I just go knock on their door, and I ask them if they were at a certain location at a certain time,” he said.
When the response is affirmative, Hooper said he is straightforward.
“I ask them: ‘Why did you throw out the trash that you threw out?’ Most of them just say it was a dumb thing to do,” he said.
Sometimes, Hooper said, a suspected offender readily admits: “‘Yes, I was there; and yes, I did it.’”
To be most effective, Perry said the cameras are rotated throughout the county. Generally, they are moved “once we feel they are unproductive in an area.”
“The areas I put them in are related to either locations the board of supervisors gets complaints about or either an individual resident who contacts the sheriff’s office or me about problem areas,” Hooper said. “First, I go out to check and see if it is an issue and to see if there is a good suitable place to put” a camera.
If the problem is as bad as officers are led to believe, Hooper said, “it doesn’t take long to catch somebody.”
“Thefts, drugs and trash are all being combated with one use,” Perry said. He noted that because the cameras are so effective, more were ordered. He does not know when they will be delivered but said they will be installed as soon as possible.
The cameras are ideal for some law-enforcement work, the sheriff said.
“They sit there, there’s very little cost associated with them, and the evidence they obtain is invaluable,” Perry said. “The new technology the cameras give us is unbelievable, and every time some other new technology comes out, I am just amazed at what it will do.”