Do you have a security camera? Erie County DA wants to know, to help the police
Video from security cameras has proven invaluable to Erie police and other law enforcement in solving crimes.
In one of their biggest recent investigations, Erie police used surveillance video to make arrests in the fatal drive-by shooting of 7-year-old Antonio “Espn” Yarger Jr. in his neighborhood of Downing Avenue on April 5.
Erie County District Attorney Elizabeth Hirz wants to make surveillance video easier for law enforcement to find.
As part of his office’s new website, Hirz launched an online registry for security cameras.
Residents and owners can visit the site, ErieDA.organd Register their name, location and type of their security cameras – including Ring doorbell devices – and other equipment details, such as the direction the cameras are pointed.
Information entered into the registry will not be made public, Hirz said.
She said her office would provide the information to police departments, allowing officers and detectives to know who has security cameras at locations under investigation. Without that information, Hirz said, police have to go door-to-door to find out who has security cameras.
“We’re trying to reduce the time spent by the police canvassing,” Hirz said. She said police “can go straight into homes” using information from the camera log.
Police use the video in the Antonio Yarger case:17-year-old accused of murdering Erie boy was on bail in another shooting
Erie Police Chief Dan Spizarny said he welcomes the creation of the registry. Citing the case of Antonio Yarger, he said CCTV has become an essential tool in solving crimes.
“The time it takes to locate, collect and then watch the video is enormous,” Spizarny said. “Any steps that can be taken to reduce this time will benefit the community to keep them safe.”
Participation in the registry is voluntary, and participation does not mean that the police would automatically have access to the video.
Police would still need clearance to obtain the video, said Erie County First Deputy District Attorney Jessica Reger, Hirz’s senior deputy. She also stressed that the information would be “purely for law enforcement purposes.”
“We really hope everyone will take a look and consider submitting their cameras to help law enforcement,” Reger said.
The Erie District Attorney’s Office announced June 7 that its new website was live. The office developed it with Criminal intelligence technologies, of York, Pennsylvania, specializing in creating websites for law enforcement. The Erie County District Attorney’s Office’s Crimewatch Technologies site includes a downloadable application.
Detectives from the district attorney’s office are helping to operate the site, Hirz said. She said her office used proceeds from the forfeiture actions to pay Crimewatch Technologies for the site — $13,000 for the first year and $11,000 per year thereafter.
Herz said his office used drug confiscation money for the site under regulations allowing forfeiture proceeds to be used for “community crime-fighting programs.” This area covers maintenance, training and support, Hirz said.
Pa. & civil forfeiture of assets: Laws remain problematic despite recent reforms, critics say
Hirz said she asked Crimewatch Technologies to develop her office’s site after seeing her work for other district attorneys’ offices.
“I looked around the state and saw other DA offices had this tool,” Hirz said.
Hirz took office in January after the retirement of Jack Daneri, who had served as a district attorney since 2009 and would have been re-elected in 2023. Hirz, who served as Daneri’s first assistant district attorney for eight years, said she would stand for re-election in 2023.
Previous Erie County Attorney’s Office websites were less extensive than the site adopted by Hirz.
Hirz said the goal of his office’s Crimewatch Technologies site — including the Camera Registry — is to create new ways “to engage the community and fight crime.”
This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: With new website, Erie County DA creates registry for security cameras