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WilCo Sheriff's Office asking locals to register surveillance cameras to help solve crimes

The Williamson County Sheriff's Office is the latest agency asking its residents to register their surveillance cameras with them. (CBS Austin)

The Williamson County Sheriff's Office is the latest agency asking its residents to register their surveillance cameras with them.

Sheriff Robert Chody launched the program Thursday. He said it will save deputies time when they're investigating a crime because they'll have a list of addresses with cameras.

"Because right now we have detectives and patrol officers who will literally drive the street looking at cameras, and they can be in lots of different places," Chody said.

To register, you go to the county website and fill out an online form with your name, address and where your cameras are located.

When a crime happens in a specific area, deputies will ask the county IT team for a list of homes with cameras in that area.

"We will then go to those residences or businesses and ask the owners if we can have video evidence and look at their video system and determine if anything was caught during the time of the crime," Chody said.

Pflugerville resident Anthony Nguyen registered his cameras with the Pflugerville Police Digital Neighborhood Watch Program. "I think it's a great way of using technology to solve crime to deter crime," Nguyen said.

PPD started its digital neighborhood watch program earlier this year. According to the department, 215 homeowners have registered their cameras with the city. "It just helps them have more eyes and ears in the neighborhood and makes the community a safe and better place to live in," Nguyen said.

Chody announced the launch of the Williamson County Sheriff's Office Video Surveillance Camera Registration Program on Twitter Thursday.

"It could potentially change the face of the way we investigate the crimes in Williamson County so it's just a game changer for us," Chody said.

Williamson County has been working on the program for some time, but realized just how valuable this kind of video can be during an attempted kidnapping investigation last week.

"You see the video and you're like, 'wow that's pretty convincing right there,' but had it not been for the video it would've really made you question it because the video helps substantiate some of that," Chody said.

Nguyen has several cameras registered with the city, including one on the doorbell that's motion-activated, and another on the front of his house that's nearly unrecognizable. "There are a lot of cameras out in the public that are constantly looking and recording. Why not try to utilize them? Because police can't be everywhere all the time," Nguyen said.

A camera pointing down from his second floor window has eyes on not only his driveway, but several of his neighbors as well. "A lot of times crime happens outside of your little area and if you can help solve crime for somebody else why not do that? If we can work together as a community, it's the definition of community policing," Nguyen said.

If a resident registers their cameras with this program, police cannot remotely access them. Chody said his deputies still have to show up and ask for permission to use the video. The registry is simply a list of addresses.

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