‘Modern-day neighborhood watch’

Bloomfield Township promotes ‘Extra Eyes’ video registry

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published November 5, 2018

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BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP — Each year, criminals get a little smarter and more advanced in their scheming. You know it’s true — you’ve got a chip in your credit card, a mind-numbingly complex login password, and a missed call log full of spoofed “local” numbers from overseas scam callers to prove it.

The only way to fight unlawful technology is with gadgets for good. Police departments across the country are taking advantage of the growing availability of surveillance systems to keep a closer eye on neighborhoods.

Several weeks ago, Bloomfield Township police launched a registry list for homeowners and businesses with outdoor surveillance systems called Extra Eyes. Residents and business owners simply add their address and phone number to the list, and if police investigate a crime in their neighborhood, they could be called to see if their camera system recorded anything suspicious.

“Our program is built off the foundation of a similar program at the Troy Police Department,” said Bloomfield Township police officer Kelly Marthen. “We’ve had a positive response and had a fairly steady flow of registrations.”

Lt. Bryan Pizzuti said there are approximately 10 participants on the list as of now, and in the coming weeks his department will push to make more businesses aware of the program.

“We’ll probably assign patrol officers to go out to businesses,” he said. “I pushed it a bit at our open house. But the forms (to sign up for the registry) can always be found on the township website.”

Aside from a lack of awareness, Pizzuti said he’s had an issue with explaining the program to residents, who mistakenly think that by signing up they are granting the department access to their camera systems.

“That’s not true at all. We couldn’t have access to your cameras, nor would we want it,” he explained. “This is just a faster way for us to see who in the area has cameras, instead of us canvassing neighborhoods one home at a time looking for (witnesses).”

How Extra Eyes works is this: When a crime is committed and police begin to investigate, officers would normally go door to door looking for clues, asking neighbors if they’d seen anything that could be helpful to the case. With the registry, officers can see who in the area might have surveillance cameras and they can contact the owners for help.

“It can work one of two ways: They can view the camera themselves and tell us if they saw anything suspicious. Maybe we can say, ‘Did you see this vehicle go by at this time?’ Or they can offer for us to come over and take a look at the footage with them. We never have direct access. It’s more of a modern-day neighborhood watch program.”

Marthen said that, fortunately, Extra Eyes hasn’t needed to prove its worth as of yet, but other agencies have seen the benefits of a registry, he said.

The home surveillance systems, and even video doorbells like Ring, can not only help with larger investigations, they could solve or even deter a rampant crime trend during the holiday season: porch pirates.

“In regards to mail or package thefts from porches, we foresee the program providing invaluable evidence and, hopefully, deterrence in these thefts,” Marthen added in an email.

“A lot of people think that as far as the video doorbells go, you have to ring the bell in order for it to record. And I don’t correct them; let (criminals) think that. But they’re motion activated, and they’ll get someone on camera just coming up to the door.”

To sign up for Extra Eyes, visit bloomfieldtwp.org.

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