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Eyes on us: surveillance cameras provide more and more evidence

They're in stores, gas stations, banks, buses, police cars, on street corners and in homes. They're security cameras keeping an eye on everything and everyone passing by. And the images they capture are being used more frequently than ever by Bergen County police in their investigations.

As surveillance cameras have dropped in price with advances in digital technology, they've soared in use across New Jersey, providing evidence in a wide range of criminal cases, from traffic violations to homicides.

Just last week, national attention was focused on the use of security cameras in apprehending a suspect in the New York City slaying of eight-year-old Leiby Kletzky. Earlier this month, attention was on a Hoboken man arrested after investigators spotted him on video as he walked down a street after allegedly lifting a Picasso sketch from a San Francisco art gallery.

Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli told NorthJersey.com that his office makes use of video in approximately 15 percent of investigations.

He says the videos might not show the crime or the suspect, but they can nevertheless reveal information that points toward the person eventually charged with a crime.

New Milford's police chief says the technology is the wave of the future and Ramsey's chief says the first thing his officers ask now at a robbery scene is if there's video of the incident.

The technology is not without its critics, however. Civil liberties groups say surveillance cameras infringe on privacy and wind up costing taxpayers a bundle while doing little to put a real dent in crime.

For example, across the country, municipalities are giving up on the red-light cameras not long ago popular as a means of raising revenues without raising taxes. Research now shows the cameras might actually cause more car accidents while failing to stop people from running red lights.

Source: NorthJersey.com: "Kelly: Cameras are eyewitnesses police can depend on" by Mike Kelly: July 18, 2011

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