How you can help police solve crime just by driving
DASHCAMS are becoming increasingly prevalent in Australian cars, with the popularity of YouTube channels and Facebook groups like Dashcam Owners Australia helping to fuel the popularity.
The small car-mounted cameras prove a valuable tool for owners, helping in insurance claims and also providing entertainment, with videos of the wild incidents that occur on the roads every day finding their way on to the internet.
But the footage is also proving to be a critical for police, acting like roaming CCTV cameras, helping to track suspects and give investigators a better understanding of a wide variety of crimes.
Laidley Police officer-in-charge Senior Sergeant Regan Draheim said the cameras had become a “useful tool”.
“It’s something that we obviously hadn’t expected to spread so quickly, but dashcams are becoming more and more common for various reasons among the public,” Sen-Sgt Draheim said.
“We find that a lot of that footage is useful for various crimes, from traffic enforcement through to crimes themselves, even robberies where a vehicle has been used, or a stolen car … all sorts of things.
“We find it useful if people come forward with the right footage.”
But this footage isn’t always making its way into the hands of police right away.
Sen-Sgt Draheim said there were instances where police were discovering footage of incidents only when it was posted to social media, delaying police gaining the valuable information.
“There certainly has been cases where that has occurred — where we’ve been notified that there’s been footage placed on YouTube or Facebook or another social media site and been shared without us having knowledge of it. We then see it and go ‘we didn’t know about that’, and we’ve reacted and taken appropriate action in some of those cases,” he said.
“Some of those cases have been under investigation by police and we’ve asked for dashcam footage and people have not provided it, maybe they’re not knowing we’re seeking it, and all of a sudden we’ve got information from another member of the public saying that there’s footage of that crash on social media.”
Sen-Sgt Draheim said if a dashcam owner captured a collision on their device, it was up to them whether they stopped to provide the footage to the parties involved.
“It’s up to them what they’re comfortable with,” he said.
But he encouraged them to provide the footage to police.
“If it’s a minor collision like a carpark collision — no, that’s neither here nor there,” he said.
“But certainly if it’s a crash on a highway or a main road where there appears to be significant damage or injury, obviously they should be helping the people out as well but I’d be inclined to ask them to provide that footage to investigating police.”
Dashcam owners should always ensure they download and save any footage they believe is important as some cameras would overwrite footage.
Sen-Sgt Draheim encouraged anyone who’s witnessed what they believed was criminal or suspicious behaviour and captured it on a dashcam to provide it police, either by phoning PoliceLink on 13 14 44 and informing the operator they have footage, or by attending their nearest station.
“The other thing people need to be aware is if they do provide that, there’s no obligation for them to proceed with that if they’ve changed their mind, but there is the chance that if we do proceed with those matters that they will be required to go to court and provide evidence as to when it was recorded, how it was operated,” he said.