Fremont neighborhoods combat crime with cameras


There are cameras everywhere on Chenin Blanc Drive and surrounding streets. Residents have found spending $1,000 on a home surveillance system is a good investment when it comes to deterring crime, especially when that investment far outweighs what a thief could steal in a single break-in.

Police knew the identity of one woman caught on video within days after home surveillance video was circulated showing her taking a package off the front porch of a Fremont house and walking away with it. It's part of a spreading electronic noose catching thieves and burglars on video.

Just 10 days ago, there was a package stolen from a porch in another Fremont neighborhood. The thief got away with it, but did not get away with the crime because the street also had cameras.

Two years ago, the 170 homeowners in Fremont's Scott Creek Terrace neighborhood banded together and began installing cameras after four break-ins.

"After that we did not have one residential burglary for about 18 months until this last January," resident Ken Thomas said.

Thomas says six out of 10 homeowners chipped in $50 each to buy cameras to record every vehicle entering and leaving the subdivision. The high-resolution cameras are so sharp that Thomas can get a very legible close-up of license plates.

About 30 homes also installed surveillance cameras on their private property.

"When you have a residential burglary, people in this neighborhood lose thousands of dollars, and so I think generally the homeowners think that it's worthwhile to have a system, pay a thousand for a system, to figure out who's causing these crimes," Thomas said.

Fremont residents' move toward neighborhood surveillance shows sophisticated systems are no longer limited to cities like Tiburon or bridge tolls booths that capture license plates or red-light cameras that can even capture a driver's face.

Surveillance video expert Ken Castle says there is even analytical software that makes the cameras smart.

"If somebody crosses a line that you establish in the camera -- they walk onto your driveway or they walk into your yard -- it will trigger an alert, and it'll also start filming on motion," he said.

Tuesday night over 100 homeowners in Fremont packed a workshop where they learned how the cameras worked and why they're so effective.

Fear is what's driven just about everyone to a community workshop on surveillance cameras. Right now there are 250 cameras that are registered with the Fremont Police Department. Meaning, if a crime happens near a camera, police can check their data base and see if a homeowner caught it on video.

"We are really reliant on the information that is provided to us by the people who live in the neighborhoods," said Fremont Police Chief Richard Lucero.

That's why police want more people to install cameras.

"The criminals will drive in, if they see the cameras, they will probably turn around and go back out. So we believe it's a strong deterrent," said Thomas.

Thomas suggests a community approach where the entire neighborhood chips in and sets up cameras in key locations. An idea that sounded good, but wasn't very realistic for many in attendance.

Fremont police plans to hold a similar workshop in the coming months.

Lisa Amin Gulezian contributed to this report.

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