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Police seek better images from business cameras

By Scott Harrison
Published On: Jan 10 2013 03:05:00 AM CST

Police want to make it easier to identify suspects from surveillance cameras.

COLORADO SPRINGS and PUEBLO, Colo. -

Police offered suggestions to business owners for improving surveillance camera images to better identify burglary, robbery and theft suspects.

Pueblo police Sgt. Eric Gonzales mentioned a surprising reason for why many video and photo images are fuzzy.

"A lot of times, businesses set up their cameras for internal theft," he said.  "I don't think they focus too much on external theft, or somebody coming in and robbing them."

Several recent crimes in Colorado Springs and Pueblo illustrate the problem.  In many images, the suspects have their faces or heads covered, or are recorded by a single camera from one direction.  In a video of an armed robbery Monday outside a medical marijuana dispensary, the suspect can't be seen well enough to be identified.

Amanda Thompson is manager of that dispensary, Rocky Mountain Miracles, on Bijou Street.  She said her mother, who owns the dispensary, recently paid $40,000 for 40 cameras, and that the dispensary had been burglarized six times.

"You can zoom in," said Thompson.  "But as soon as you do, it's like the face just disappears.  (The image) gets so grainy that you can't see any detail.  We're limited by the state in what systems we can use.  They don't tell you exactly which camera at what angle under what lighting will (get the image) every single time."

Gonzales recommends that businesses have more than one camera placed in different locations to provide a variety of angles.  Businesses most often place a camera near the cash register, he said, but criminals usually know that and are prepared for it.

Another suggestion by Gonzales is for businesses to use a high-definition surveillance system.  He said he understands that such a system is more expensive, so he advises businesses to at least have a HD recorder if not a camera.

In some cases, however, lesser-quality cameras --depending on their placement -- still can provide enough clues to identify a suspect.  Gonzales mentioned a recent photo in which the suspect's face was blurry, but her long hair and clothing provided clues that identified her.

"Somebody actually called in and said they knew her," he said.  "We ended up capturing her and the male who assisted her."

Gonzales said police rely on the public to help identify suspects because police resources are limited.

Thompson said she'd like to see police actually visit businesses and personally advise owners on surveillance equipment.

"I wish there was more to make it 100 percent," she said.  "To get a clear picture and not waste money on a camera system."

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