Caught on Tape: Cameras put a dint in crime

Cops use surveillance footage to catch bad guys, but cameras often poorly installed

A suspect is seen on closed-circuit TV at the Travelodge Hotel on Gorge Road on Sept. 19 at 7 a.m. A handgun was allegedly pulled on a staffer

About two weeks after a downtown business owner installed closed-circuit TV cameras in his shop, he realized he could have been blind to reality up to that point.

As the man sat in the back room working on his books, he peeked up at the live feed from the cameras as they played on his computer screen.

A man walked into the shop unheard, grabbed a jacket, and walked out.

“He would never have known that jacket was missing without (closed-circuit) TV,” said Ken Kelly, general manager of the Downtown Victoria Business Association.

Three years ago, the DVBA offered grants to its member businesses for installing surveillance video. Many took up the offer.

At the same time, the association paired up with Victoria police to launch Retail COP, which stands for Cameras on Patrol. It lets business owners share images of suspected shoplifters or fraudsters with one another and with the police.

Const. Mike Russell is the former co-ordinator for Retail COP. He said cameras help businesses identify suspects with police help, but also act as a deterrent to some potential shoplifters.

“Almost any business that starts up now installs surveillance,” he said, adding he believes about 70 per cent of downtown businesses are believed to have cameras. Of those, about five per cent have cameras installed properly.

Poor lighting, lack of focus and high angles make it hard to identify subjects.

“If you’re concerned enough to have surveillance, have a professional come in and install it,” Russell said.

Kelly said he hasn’t seen much of an increase in businesses installing cameras.

“It’s intriguing. There’s great value in them. However, for the most part, even though there is a large amount of retail theft that does go on in Canada, for our smaller stores it is difficult to do all that you have to do in a store, as well as keep an eye on the camera.”

For more information on Retail COP, visit retailcop.ca.

ecardone@vicnews.com

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