Local News

Outdated Surveillance Systems Stymie Robbery Investigators

Posted October 26, 2006

— Detectives are investigating a total of 13 hold-ups with similarities in Cary and Raleigh. But they are having a tough time catching the robbers, and technology may be partly to blame.

The Quality Mart on Walnut Street has been hit twice, with the latest robbery occurring early Thursday morning. Like many of the businesses targeted, this store has surveillance equipment, but often the equipment is outdated and produces poor images.

"If we had better quality video, it would help. It always does," said Captain David Wulff with the Cary Police Department.

Surveillance images were captured during armed robberies at fast-food restaurants in Raleigh, but investigators have found it's almost impossible to pick out any distinguishing features on most of the images.

"I just shake my head. They could have got such better pictures to apprehend the suspect faster," said Dave Baratta, a loss-prevention specialist.

Baratta said 60 percent of businesses are still using outdated VHS technology instead of digital systems.

"They don't realize it's out there, and they don't realize how cost-effective systems have become," Baratta said.

A state-of-the-art system cost $20,000 five years ago, but the price has gone down over time, and now it costs between $3,000 and $5,000.

New systems allow business owners to monitor activity live from the comfort of their computers at home, but detectives said there are limits to even the best technology.

"In reality, video is only as good as a good detective. You still have to do the work," Wulff said.

WRAL contacted many of the businesses targeted in the latest string of armed robberies, but none wanted to comment. Anyone with information is asked to call the Cary or Raleigh police departments. Tipsters with information might be eligible for a reward for assisting the investigation.

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