Coon Rapids neighbors use security cameras to assist police program

For the first time, a Minnesota city has a watch team that allows police to view people's home security cameras.

Police in Coon Rapids say the "old school" ways of preventing crime in neighborhoods should be updated because nowadays, many people have nest cameras in their home or on a doorbell--giving police another tool in solving crimes.

Resident Greg Oltmanns believes you can never be too prepared. He has security cameras all around his home and special light sensors on his garage to deter any criminals.

“You get a full shot of anyone coming up to the door, or anyone pulling up here or people speeding by,” he said.

In fact, Oltmanns recently caught someone flying down his street, blowing through stop signs. So when he learned the police department was launching a new community camera program, he was eager to sign up.

Coon Rapids Police Captain Jon Urquhart said having a community camera program gives the department a database of people in every neighborhood.

“What cameras really are is a tool. Cameras aren’t 3D; they don’t give us all aspects, but it gives us a place to start,” he said. “If something did happen in the neighborhood, we would probably contact them and say 'can you check your video for us' and say 'if you see something like this' - because we would give them timeframes and ranges like that - 'if you see something please let us know.'”

Captain Urquhart worked alongside Community Outreach Specialist Trish Heitman, who researched this program in other states.

Heitman said there's no Big Brother going on here; cameras cannot be viewed remotely by the police department.

“We, of course, don’t force anyone to give us information. It’s strictly a voluntary basis, and the other thing is when people sign up for community watch team - even if they don’t have a camera system - they can sign up and they are still going to be our go-to people who are our community builders,” she said.

Greg Oltmanns is hoping more people in his neighborhood sign up, as he thinks there can never be too many eyes watching out for each other.

“I think neighborhoods have got to really pick up on who lives here, who your friends are and who shouldn’t be here,” he said.