DANVILLE — Shortly after receiving a call for an armed robbery at First Midwest Bank's main branch on the morning of Aug. 12, police had a vivid description of the suspect thanks to video surveillance taken by the bank's security camera.
They later tracked down another clue — a picture of the getaway vehicle — also captured on a security camera.
"The quality of the image wasn't as good as the bank's," said Public Safety Director Larry Thomason, who explained it was taken by a less-sophisticated camera at a business about a block away, and the camera was shooting through glass.
"But it was good enough to give us the make and model of the vehicle and identify the person getting into the vehicle as the same person at the bank. Once they had that description, they put it out to the other cars so they knew what to be looking for."
The only problem: It took some time for police officers to canvass the downtown business district and recover the video footage of the vehicle. And time is a critical factor when solving a crime.
"The earlier we have the information, the better chance we have in making an apprehension," said Thomason, who said police haven't made an arrest in the armed robbery yet.
Now Danville police want to create a database of security camera locations within the city to aid all law enforcement in future investigations.
Thomason said many businesses have installed them as part of a burglar and/or fire alarm system. While they've done that to protect their property and personnel, he said, the equipment has been a valuable tool in capturing images of incidents occurring at a neighboring site.
"It's one of the first things we check for," Thomason said, referring to cameras in and around crime scenes. He cited a number of incidents in which they helped in solving burglaries and thefts.
However, he said, canvassing for the technology can be time-consuming, and it can be overlooked.
Burglar and fire alarm systems must be registered with the city, but security cameras do not. So, Thomason is asking that business owners and homeowners who have cameras and are willing to share the location to call the police department and add them to a list.
People who are willing to share should call the police department's criminal investigation division at 431-2245, and give the secretary their contact information; hours they can be contacted; type of security coverage they have (inside premises only, outside premises only or both); format or system type, if known; and how the imagery can be exported.
Thomason said some owners post stickers or signs advertising their security system company on their property to serve as a deterrent to would-be criminals, while others like to keep that information private.
"This list will be kept confidential and will only be used by the police for an investigation," Thomason insisted.
"We're just asking for everyone's cooperation in this. It will be a big asset to law enforcement in our community."