On the Beat with Lt. Schoeppner

Lt-SchoeppnerLt. D.G. Schoeppner is Tucker’s liaison to the DeKalb County Police Department and can be followed at facebook.com/dgschoeppner or emailed at dgschoeppner@dekalbcountyga.gov.

It’s not really news that in the last several years police have had a challenging time with staffing levels. In this day and age, when we are expected to do more with less, we are continuously looking for ways to make technology pick up the slack. Two of the tools which are coming into prominence are tag reading cameras and “Ring” doorbell cameras. Even though both of these are based on video, they work in somewhat different ways. This month I’m going to explain how we use these tools to catch criminals who may be preying on you or your neighbors.

Tag reading cameras are typically mounted on poles along the roadway. They are motion activated and ideally take a snapshot of every car that passes by. The most obvious use for this would be to detect stolen cars. Since October, when the DeKalb County Police Department signed its agreement to access the “FLOCK” system, Tucker Precinct has recovered 13 stolen vehicles. However, this is only a portion of the use that these cameras provide. If our detectives are able to get a vehicle description and we know that vehicle likely passed a tag reading camera, we can search for that vehicle type on the date and time of the incident. If we find a match, we can then follow that lead to develop a suspect. This means that the cameras can be useful to us in investigating a wide range of crimes, not just stolen vehicles.

“Ring” cameras typically mount in place of a doorbell ringer on your front door. The common use for these cameras is to give the owner a real time video and audio feed of anyone at their front door. The cameras are also motion activated and record anyone that approaches near it. These videos tend to be useful in burglary and entering auto cases. This technology is so useful, in fact, that back in December, DeKalb Police finalized a partnership with “Ring” for us to access their system.

I can already hear many of you saying, “Lt. Schoeppner, I don’t want the police to be able to snoop through my Ring camera!” For the folks concerned about that, I have good news: that is not the way the system works. In order for us to access a “Ring” video, it first needs to be uploaded by the owner of the device. Every day our investigative aide looks in the system for new videos. She will even send you a message saying that she has gotten it. If this matches any of the crimes we are investigating, she will send it over to the appropriate detective for them to look at.

Neither of these tools is a silver bullet. Both require some level of police work to make them useful. However, when there always seems to be more criminals than police, every little bit helps.

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