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Eye On The Crime In Tampa

In the first six months of this year, cameras have provided police with evidence needed to make at least forty arrests and have helped them to find and recover twelve stolen vehicles in the Tampa area. Last year, they helped law enforcement make 117 arrests, and recover forty-two stolen vehicles.

With a $1 million federal grant, Eye on Crime cameras were first installed in 2010. Since then they have enhanced police investigations, helping to create leads, find suspects, and gather evidence. The number of cameras and tag readers used is gradually being increased, thanks to more grants being given.

Although the sheriff’s office in Tampa does not have the funds to have someone monitoring the cameras constantly, the cameras are capable of remote operation, with the ability to zoom in and out or rotate. Moreover, the tag readers screen all license plate numbers automatically—checking for matches to stolen vehicles, or vehicles sought after in connection with other ongoing investigations, like kidnappings or missing people. The footage from the cameras is then stored for thirty days, so it remains easily accessible for review.

The cameras were first used in public places such as gas stations in the Tampa area; however, most of the new Eye on Crime cameras are going to be set up on private property like apartment complexes, with full permission from property owners. Private, law-abiding citizens expect there to be elevated security in high crime areas.

The cameras were key to catching the culprit of a string of armed robberies. The robber had successfully held up at least five stores—convenience stores, gas stations, and a Mexican grocery, even threatening a nine-year-old girl in one of them—in the Tampa area, and might have gotten away with it without police’s help from the Eye on Crime cameras and tag readers.

Witnesses had reported seeing a blue or green Ford Expedition at the scene of more than one of the robberies. Sure enough, police caught a glimpse of a blue Ford Expedition in the video recording from the night and location of one of the robberies. The same car was then found in multiple recordings at a Knight’s Inn motel nearby. They used the license plate number to determine the car’s owner, and with a court order, found enough evidence in their hotel room to make the arrest.

In another instance, the cameras on private property were the ones to help solve a crime. A card reader had been installed near the home of a felon with a long record as part of an investigation on him. The camera documented each time he left his home, and each time he came back. It was documented that he was out at the time of the robbery of a Pizza Hut. The next victim was Kangaroo Gas Station, robbed the very next day. Police determined the drive time would be about eight minutes from the gas station. Sure enough, a red SUV matching that of the suspect’s was recorded heading toward the interstate eight minutes after the robbery. The same day, another gas station had been robbed.

A court order was granted, allowing detectives to attach trackers to the suspect’s vehicle. Soon after, the trackers implicated the suspect in yet another robbery, and the suspect was arrested.

As more grants come in, more cameras and tag readers are expected to be installed in order to continue increasing security in the Tampa area.