By Mary Bubala

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — When police needed a break to solve a high-profile murder in Federal Hill this year, they turned to neighbors who protect their own homes with security cameras.

For the first time ever, enough homeowners in Maryland have security cameras or video doorbell systems that police can tap into to solve crimes before they turn cold.

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It’s like having dozens of police officers responding to a crime scene — except in reality it’s only a few officers.

That’s how local police are describing a relatively new crime-fighting tool that uses video from doorbell and security cameras to identify criminals and solve crimes.

It’s what Baltimore City police did in Federal Hill following the murder of 25-year-old Timothy Moriconi during a botched street robbery.

Police collected neighbors’ security camera footage and identified a vehicle and license plate number that led to an arrest.

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“The detective showed me the folder of the different piece of videos that were able to be stitched together that we were able to identify aspects of this crime,” said former city police spokesman T.J. Smith.

WJZ interviewed Smith while he was still working for the Baltimore Police Department.

It’s a valuable weapon helping police solve murders, but also burglaries.

“Absolutely it’s a huge help for us, it’s one of the most important tools we have in our investigations is what camera we have where,” said Cpl. Shawn Vinson, with the Baltimore County Police Department.

You’ve seen the videos of people stealing packages from front porches.

Now all that video is making its way into the hands of police.

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Sandy and Russell Slocum’s Dundalk home was burglarized.

The burglar pried open the lock to their safe and stole tools from their garage.

“After he came in house he found keys to my garage went out the back door,’ said Russell Slocum.

But, he was being tracked by a neighbor’s security camera.

Now the suspect’s image is on Baltimore County Police fliers and links him to five other break-ins along the Back River Neck corridor.

“Our officers now — when they come out of a call — walk to a business or a home [and] just start looking up and down to see where there is a camera,” Vinson said. “What’s changed now that we knock on doors and say ‘Hey, we see you have a camera on side of house. Do you mind if we take a look at this video this might us help solve this case?'”

“It will help police catch him at some point, hopefully at some point. But he’s already been back to the neighborhood, but caught on more cameras,” the Slocums said.

With so many cameras in the neighborhood, it’s only a matter of time, he’s caught.

“Hopefully more people get it to stop it all,” Russell Slocum said.

The video doesn’t just help police find the suspects. It’s then sent onto the state’s attorney’s office and prosecutors use the video in court to convict the suspects.

To learn more about security camera systems and which may be the best available, read our interview with CNET expert Megan Wollerton. 

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