The Crime: Burglary
The Victim: Elodio Cruz
Location: 11900 block of Oberlin
Date: Saturday, Nov. 3, 5 p.m.
Time: 5 p.m.

Security camera footage is sometimes worth less than you’d think.

A lot of places buy the cameras but skimp on the quality, and the law enforcement community can’t do much with grainy, pixilated footage, whether in identifying a perpetrator or using it in court.

But even more useless than grainy security footage is footage that, for one reason or another, the victim of a theft doesn’t feel like turning over to the police.

“I don’t see the point, really,” Elodio Cruz says. When Cruz was robbed twice in a month, he decided a closed-circuit camera might be a worthy investment. This hunch paid off a few weeks later, when, Cruz says, he caught footage of someone knocking on his back door while he was away and then returning a minute later with a friend, entering and taking various electronics and jewelry from the house.

But when it came time to get his money’s worth on the camera, he decided to pass. The detective on the case requested that Cruz submit the footage on a DVD, something he has declined to do thus far.

“It wouldn’t really do any good,” Cruz says. “I don’t think they actually could do anything with it.”

Lt. Michael Woodberry says that, while it may not lead to a direct arrest, submitting the video footage could make a difference.

“Most burglars aren’t first-timers,” Woodberry says. “While we might not be able to do much with the footage when we first get it, we’ll enter it as evidence. If we pick the guy up later down the road, then there you go. It helps you prosecute the person. If you have a guy on tape, stealing as clear as day, that’s hard to refute. Of course, it’s only valuable up to a point. If it’s grainy, that won’t help us much.”

This is one potential reason for Cruz’s withholding of the footage, that the quality of it is so poor it isn’t worth transferring to DVD. Another is that Cruz says he has a good idea who the culprit is, and because of this person’s status as a juvenile, Cruz wants to handle the situation without getting the law involved. He wouldn’t specify his motives, beyond saying: “The video won’t get my stuff back.”

But while Cruz has decided to let this one slide, Woodberry encourages businesses that want to catch thieves to consider their current surveillance set-ups.

“A lot of businesses don’t think it’s cost-effective to get good cameras,” Woodberry says. “But if you don’t get the quality stuff, sometimes it’s like you have nothing at all, evidence-wise. What’s the point of that?”