Police want to enlist your security camera to help fight crime

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SPARKS, Nev. (KOLO) - Some are fuzzy, others razor sharp. Some black and white, some color.

Security camera images capture crimes in progress. Investigators will tell you even those of questionable quality are valuable and often more reliable than eye witnesses.

"Clothing, vehicle descriptions, anything," says Sparks Police Officer Damon O'Connell. "We can send them into our tech guys and sometimes they can enhance them to make them look a little bit better."

Businesses and homeowners install these cameras for protection and--should the worst happen--to give investigators a starting point. In fact after some kinds of crimes these images may be literally the only hard evidence investigators have to work with.

"If we don't have any kind surveillance photos for some of these specific crimes that are done in our community, we really have to get lucky to get a break because they're often crimes of opportunity. They happen late at night when people aren't out."

But those images from the scene of the crime may not tell the whole story.

Their glimpse of the suspect may be brief or blocked, as they were in an attempted firebombing of a Carson City judge's home.

More helpful were images of the suspect's vehicle captured by a neighbor's security system and others that showed the same car heading north out of Carson City. That told investigators the suspect may be from the Reno-Sparks area. And when John Aston was finally arrested, that turned out to be true.

Security camera footage didn't solve that crime, but that's not always the case. It can even lead to an immediate arrest. In 2013, a security camera on a home across the street from Idlewild Park captured a team of taggers moving through the park leaving graffiti in their wake.

The homeowner happened to be watching, and called police. The taggers were caught a short distance away. The security camera footage helped prove the charge.

The point is, the more cameras out there, the more crimes solved. Investigators now routinely go door-to-door looking for cameras, but if they already knew where those cameras were, police and the public would have that information sooner.

That's why the Sparks Police Department is compiling a database of security cameras in the community. It's called Sparks Safe Cam.

"This is a way for you to be involved in your community, help the community that you're living in," said O'Connell.

A security system may be a good way of protecting your home or business. Access to a number of them can help protect an entire neighborhood or community.

To sign up your surveillance system, click here.