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Phoenix Police's 'Virtual Block Watch' program helps detectives ID criminals

Home surveillance cameras have become more popular these days and that's helping law enforcement easily identify criminals and their crimes.

We're hearing from a valley woman who credits her cameras for alerting her to a possible intruder and updating you on the Phoenix Police program that's using your cameras to fight crime.

"We're now seeing surveillance systems in places they didn't have them before," said Sgt. Vince Lewis.

According to Phoenix Police, that is a big reason why home burglary calls are becoming easier to investigate.

'What that has allowed us to do is more easily identify criminals that commit these crimes," said Lewis.

The latest case involves a valley homeowner who spotted a strange woman lurking outside her home just last week. The woman, who was wearing a white mask and walking her dog in the early hours of the morning, was seen lurking by the front door -- not once or twice, but on three different occasions.

"She never made eye contact with our cameras, which is quite odd because they are very obvious and as homeowners, you want them to be quite obvious," said the homeowner, who did not want to be identified.

She was at home at the time, but only realized someone suspicious was out front when she went back and looked at the footage. She says this is one of three cameras placed around her home and believes they work better than the home's alarm system.

"But this is a much more fool-proof way, it's not something you have to set or not set, it records 24/7 and it alerts us of activity," she said.

Which is why police are utilizing their Virtual Block Watch program now, more than ever. The voluntary program, which began during the Serial Street Shooting investigation, allows homeowners to register their cameras with the department so detectives know who has them and where.

"We don't get to view them, we don't get to stream them live," explained Lewis. "If a crime is committed in your neighborhood and your camera is pointed in a direction you can let us know you may have footage and our investigators can contact you after the fact with a program called Virtual Block Watch.

But even if you don't have the money for an expensive and elaborate camera system, police say there is plenty you can do to protect your home from intruders.

"Put locks on your windows.. light your property, trim back your bushes.. there are a lot of simple things that you can do day to day that don't involve aftermarket products," said Lewis.

Virtual Block Watch: Phoenix Police Dept. Program