Camera program serves as JPD’s ‘eyes, ears’


JASPER — The culprits broke into cars and stole radar detectors, GPS navigation units and CDs. Without any leads, the case could have gone cold.

After reviewing home security camera footage, however, a resident in the neighborhood that was ransacked realized he had caught the criminals on tape.

“And so we used that information to help solve those incidents,” said Jasper Police Chief Nathan Schmitt, recalling the crimes.

Today, the Jasper Police Department launched a new, voluntary program dubbed “Keep Watch” that could help the local outfit solve more crimes like the one described above. By enrolling in the initiative, city business owners and homeowners will be able to easily share video captured on their own cameras with the police — even if they don’t know that a crime has occurred.

“The city of Jasper, the citizens have always been very good to the police department,” Schmitt said. “Very supportive. And this is just another way they can support us and help us solve crimes that occur in our community.”

Those interested in enrolling in the program can do so on the City of Jasper website. After filling out a brief survey, they will be added to a private database of camera owners that can only be viewed by law enforcement officials.

If a crime happens near their home or business, police will request participating residents to check their footage and possibly ask to view the video. Camera owners will not be forced to hand over the footage.

Schmitt explained that the idea came from local State Police Trooper Brock Werne. While conducting an investigation in Tell City, Werne was given a list of community members that had signed up for a similar camera registry program, and he suggested Schmitt look into launching a program in Jasper.

“I’ve been contacted by a few people in the past about neighborhood watch programs and different things, and my overall feeling is that most people in the community want to help out,” Schmitt said. “They want to help keep Jasper safe and they want to do their part. And this is a great way for people to do their part and to help be our eyes and ears out there, where we can’t be everywhere at once.”

Schmitt explained that with the increasing popularity of the Ring brand doorbells — smart devices that have built in lenses to capture the faces of home visitors — and other security systems, crimes that historically may have been hard to pinpoint — like package thefts, burglaries and hit-and-runs — could be solved.

“There could be a crime that happens in their neighborhood, and they have no clue about it,” Schmitt said of local residents. “They have something to help us solve the case.”

He later added: “And so this could be a good chance for us to say, ‘Hey, listen, this might have happened in your neighborhood. See if you have any footage of it.’”

At the Jasper Board of Public Works meeting on Tuesday morning, Mayor Dean Vonderheide echoed Schmitt’s comments and said he thinks the program is a “another way citizens can help the community be a safe community.” Jasper residents can join the registry by visiting and navigating to the police department tab.

“The goal is to partner with the community to help or reduce crimes that occur,” Schmitt said.

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