In Lancaster City, surveillance cameras cover most main streets.
"From working in the city, I know how valuable they can be to solve crimes and help investigate accidents," Quarryville Police Chief Clark Bearinger said last week.
Since Quarryville has no public surveillance cameras and no plans to install them, the police chief has come up with an alternative - create a database of privately-owned cameras whose owners will allow police to access them.
He began soliciting listings in late August and has had owners list four private surveillance cameras. Now he hopes more residents and businesses are willing to list their cameras with the department. Those four locations join others the department already knows about.
The chief has created a tab on the borough's page of Lancaster Crimewatch to register the cameras. Owners can pull down on the tab to the camera registry, fill out the form, and send it to the department.
Those cameras will then be added to a map showing the location of each listed camera. Information attached to each camera listing will let officers know what kind of camera is there and how long that surveillance system retains images. Most systems keep a day's images seven days; a few may have shorter or longer retention times.
That's crucial if the police need those images. "If we know that, we know how quickly we have to access that system before it overwrites the time period we need," he said. Property owners should also make sure to set the date and time function on their systems so if the images are needed, the proper information will be included.
The chief is also hoping the registry will encourage residents and businesses to install camera surveillance systems.
"The new systems are affordable and have very good quality. They can cost between $300 and $500 and many can be installed by the property owners themselves," he said. Even the increasingly-popular doorbell cameras can be useful, especially to solve the thefts of packages delivered when the residents are not home.
"If someone knocks on the door to see if anyone's home, even if they don't get into that house, they may get into a neighbor's home just down the block," he explained. "If we have a crime in that area, it's possible the suspect may have passed the camera on the way to the crime or on the way back.". Cameras that cover streets and intersections will also help officers investigate crashes.
The cameras are not connected directly to the police department. "We want to emphasize that this does not give us access to the systems or control over them," Chief Bearinger said. "The department is not going to have active access to the systems. We can only use them with the owners' permission."
While Quarryville does not have a lot of incidents, "crime happens everywhere.
“The more cameras we can use, the more likely we can solve a crime," the police chief said.