Home video security systems catching on in Pine Bluff, Jefferson County

While surveillance video is common in business establishments, particularly banks and convenience stores, it’s only in the past few years that it has become more of an item in residential neighborhoods.

“In residential burglaries, particularly when people are at work in the daytime, it gives us a picture of a suspect or suspects,” Pine Bluff Police Lt. David Price said.

Sheriff’s Office Maj. Lafayette Woods Jr. agreed, saying that a segment of video from a home security system was able to record a vehicle driven by a suspected burglar who was casing a house, and later, when that same vehicle was seen at the scene of an attempted burglary, sheriff’s investigators were able to make an arrest.

Woods said the suspect, David Stacker, 21, later admitted to burglarizing at least 18 residences in Pine Bluff and Jefferson County.

“Every home is different,” said Van Nichols, owner of Code Alert Security at Pine Bluff. “The needs are going to be different so a complete analysis is necessary to determine what’s best for a particular home.”

While he said he has seen more homes adding a camera system for additional security, “you can’t beat an alarm system.

“The camera can be circumvented by taking the DVR or what happens if the suspect is wearing a hood or something else that covers his face,” Nichols said.

Nichols said alarm systems, including video surveillance, can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars.

“You get what you pay for,” he said, warning that some door-to-door salesmen have been working in Pine Bluff and Jefferson County recently, offering alarm systems for free. The catch is, the fees for monitoring that system can be extremely high, and customers are often locked into long-term contracts.

“We’ve gotten several complaints about the tactics used by some of those people,” Woods said. “They’ve been very aggressive and almost wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

Woods said he’s heard reports that some of those salespeople, who both he and Nichols said were “college kids,” had used the names of influential people in the community, claiming that person was endorsing their service.

“I’ve heard that my name was mentioned, [Assistant Pine Bluff Police Chief] Ivan Whitfield’s name was mentioned and others,” Woods said.

He also stressed that so far, those door-to-door salespeople had not broken any laws.

Price said video has been “very beneficial in putting a picture of what a victim is trying to describe.

“Sometimes a small detail can make a world of difference,” Price said. “When people see something, they understand it better and remember it better than if they were just told about it.”

The last confirmed sighting of escaped Department of Corrections prisoner Timothy Buffington was recorded by a home video security system on Princeton Pike on June 21. Buffington was unsuccessful in breaking in the back door of the residence.

Nichols and Chris Tucker, who works as a salesman at Code Alert, said the idea of phone lines being cut to circumvent an alarm system happens more on television than in real life.

“In 24 years in this business, I’ve seen less than 10 phone lines cut,” Nichols said.

For Tucker, the number was about five lines in 12 years.

In addition to store or home security cameras, Woods said investigators sometimes get a break from the suspects themselves.

“Frequently, our investigators are recovering video cameras and tape containing footage offenders record of themselves committing crimes,” he said, referring to the widespread availability of video on phones and other devices, on which suspects are recording crimes or bragging about them — which eventually ends up in law enforcement hands.