The Patio Patrol program allows residents with home security systems register their devices to help police investigate crimes in their area more efficiently. Fort Collins Coloradoan
As Fort Collins police work to build their Patio Patrol program, they hope they’ll be able to better combat “porch pirates” and other neighborhood crimes.
Fort Collins Police Services launched the Patio Patrol program in July, and the program has more than 210 residents registered as of early December, according to Fort Collins Police Services Chief Jeff Swoboda. Two residents who previously registered have opted out of the program as of early December, according to police spokesperson Kate Kimble.
Patio Patrol asks residents with home security cameras to register their addresses with the police department so officers know where cameras are placed to assist in solving crimes.
With the program’s launch in July, Kimble said “we wanted to have some people built up” for porch pirate season. The program is completely voluntary, and registering does not give police access to any of the footage, Swoboda said.
Here’s how it works:
- Residents with external home security systems can register their devices in a secure database accessible only to police.
- Once registered, an officer will be able to look through that database to find registered security systems in the area where a crime has occurred.
- The police officer can reach out to people with registered security systems in the area of the crime and ask them to look through their footage and send along a clip of what their camera recorded.
- The security system owner can then choose whether to offer their footage to police.
Swoboda said he couldn’t point to a specific case where the Patio Patrol program helped “break open” a case, but he’s been working to keep the program top of mind for officers.
“It’s new (to the community); it’s even new for us,” he said. “(When) there’s a new tool or procedure, it’s just a matter of making it a habit, and it’s just not a habit yet.”
While home security cameras have caught package thieves, or “porch pirates,” ever since their inception, Swoboda said their program will also help identify suspects moving to and from crime scenes or confirm suspects’ alibis.
Police also hope the cameras can help catch suspects in other residential crimes, like vehicle break-ins and vandalism.
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Swoboda said he’s excited about the program’s participation so far, but recognized a need to continue educating the department and the public on how it works.
“We all play a part in keeping our community safe,” Swoboda said. “Cameras are a part of it; us being out there and observing are a part of it; notifying the police, that’s part of it. … Not one of these things, by any means, the answer, but each one of them in unison working together can really make us a lot safer.”
How to protect yourself against porch pirates
Arrange to be home when your package is scheduled to arrive.
If you can’t be home, have the package delivered to a trusted neighbor’s house or have them grab it from your doorstep for you.
If ordering from a retail store that has a location nearby, choose the shipping option to have your items sent there and pick them up when you’re able.
If ordering from Amazon, have your package shipped to a nearby Whole Foods store and pick it up from a locker.
Place a tub or box on your front porch and label it for “deliveries,” then weigh the bottom down with rocks or something heavy. Police say delivery drivers will put packages in labeled containers, and making it even just a little more difficult for thieves to grab the package and run will often deter them.
Always report suspicious activity immediately to the Fort Collins police non-emergency number: 970-419-3273. Some examples from police include cars driving slowly up and down streets or unfamiliar people walking around.
Report small crimes or attempted crime — for example, stealing change from an unlocked car. Reporting these crimes helps investigators connect dots between different neighborhood crimes. Report crimes online at www.fcgov.com/police/coplogic-start-report.php.
Source: Fort Collins Police Services
Sady Swanson covers crime, courts, public safety and more throughout Northern Colorado. You can send your story ideas to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @sadyswan. Support our work and local journalism with a digital subscription at Coloradoan.com/subscribe.
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