By Karen Zautyk
Early last year, a malevolent vandal spray-painted graffiti up and down Elm St. between Oakwood and Midland Aves., damaging houses, garages, retaining walls and a car (which was reportedly re-targeted after its owner had it cleaned up).
Authorities said the damage averaged about $500 per property; the damage to the auto, about $4,000.
Thanks to cooperative homeowners with private security cameras, the Kearny Police Department was able to readily identify a suspect and take him into custody.
Now, as crimes go, you might think graffiti is no big deal (unless, that is, you have been a victim faced with a graffiti-removal bill you can ill afford). So, how about murder?
Police say suspects in the last two homicides in the township were nabbed thanks in part to private security cameras. After 16-year-old Alishia Colon was shot dead in her Belgrove Drive home in January 2013, video cams captured images of individuals leaving the scene of the crime, police reported. And in August 2009, when robbers killed Xavier Egoavil in Rachel Jewelers on Kearny Ave., police ID›d the getaway car through security cam footage.
As more and more homes, as well as businesses, are being equipped with security cameras, the KPD is launching an initiative to identify where such cameras are located around town and to seek access to them or their tapes if needed in a criminal investigation.
Don’t get all bent out of shape. This is not Big Brother. This is not the beginning of a «police state.»
This is a cooperative effort in which the KPD is asking, not demanding, information. And the amount of camera access you choose to provide is your decision alone.
Officer Jack Corbett of the Community Oriented Policing (COP) unit of the department explained that “this a voluntary registration program.” People who have the cameras are being asked to register with the department. The locations will then be fed into a KPD database.
“If a crime is committed, we will know who in that geographic area has security cameras and if they will give us access to them,” Corbett said.
The tapes can be invaluable. Corbett noted that, after several car burglaries were reported on Elm St., police made an arrest within 90 minutes thanks to residential security cameras.
The KPD started the initial phase of the registration program in October in South Kearny, from Schuyler Ave. east to the Jersey City line. Police went “door-to-door, contacting companies and asking them to participate,” Corbett said. Of approximately 110 businesses, about 30% agreed to cooperate, he said.
(Editor’s note: Corbett was not dissatisfied with that percentage, but we were. Why have security cams on your commercial property in the first place? As a mere deterrent? Good luck with that.)
Currently, in the mapping/ access project, the KPD is contacting businesses and residents in the rest of the township, again going doorto- door. You should soon find an envelope in your mailbox containing a KPD video registration form.
Those who wish to participate in the program are being asked to give the specific location of their camera(s) on the property and the brand name and model number of the recording system.
You will also be asked if the camera can be accessed remotely and if you are willing to give the KPD 24-hour access (via an internet-based system).
That, however, does not mean police will be watching all the time, Corbett said. This is «not for surveillance,» he emphasized. But if you›ve given 24-hour access, and a crime happens in your neighborhood at 3 a.m., the cops won›t have to knock on your door to ask to see camera footage.
Again, please note, that you determine the access permitted.
The registration form advises: “Allowing the Kearny Police Department to have access to your camera is optional and in no way does the KPD mandate this; you do not have to provide camera access and can stop access at any time. Owners should be aware the Kearny Police Department will not be constantly monitoring your cameras.»
The registration forms can be sent to the department or dropped off in person at KPD headquarters, 237 Laurel Ave.
And if you have questions and want more information, you can contact Corbett personally at 201-998-1313, Ext. 2820.