In the heat of a foot pursuit last fall, La Vista police officers briefly lost sight of the man they were chasing. Fortunately, a resident’s home security camera was rolling.
During the chase, a 25-year-old man produced a handgun, which prompted an officer to fire multiple rounds at him. But those bullets missed their target, and the man took off, eventually forcing his way into a home, where he was subdued by the homeowner.
Officers later learned, after viewing private security footage, that the man had attempted to break into a different residence while on the run. He eventually was convicted of two counts of making terroristic threats and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.
“We would never have known that if it wasn’t for one of the neighbors’ security cameras,” La Vista Police Chief Bob Lausten said in a recent interview.
The city is now one of at least two departments in the Omaha area using home security cameras to help investigate crimes.
Under La Vista’s Security Camera Registration Program, called SCRAM, residents and businesses with doorbell security cameras and other home surveillance systems can register their cameras with the department.
If a crime occurs in the vicinity of a registered camera, investigators can then easily contact the owner to request a copy of the tape.
“We’re trying to take ‘neighborhood watch’ and turn it into ‘neighborhood eyes,’ ” Lausten said of the program, which launched at the end of August.
Those interested in registering their cameras can do so on the La Vista Police Department’s website. Patrol officers have been handing out paper forms during the course of their shifts.
Sign up for The World-Herald's afternoon updates
Receive a summary of the day’s popular and trending stories from Omaha.com.
In Omaha, video of suspicious activity can be shared with neighbors — and Omaha police — through a free smartphone app that police say already has helped solve crimes.
Ring, the video doorbell company, introduced its Neighbors app last year. The Omaha Police Department signed on to the program in July, said Omaha Police Capt. Steve Cerveny, who is in the department’s criminal investigations bureau.
La Vista, too, has a partnership with Ring that began in June. The Bellevue Police Department is in discussions to join the program, a department spokesman said.
App users don’t have to have Ring doorbells to take part in what’s essentially an online community bulletin board. People can post statements, photos and videos of suspected criminal activity in their neighborhood.
Police can monitor the posts, just as other users can, but officers wouldn’t investigate a property crime unless someone files a police report, Cerveny said.
If police are investigating a crime that occurred in a neighborhood, he said, they can reach out to residents who are on the app through Ring. “We can request any video that a system may have captured or a resident may have,” Cerveny said.
Whether people post the video or provide it to police is “totally voluntary,” Cerveny said. The app “doesn’t give us any ability to take over any video surveillance system.”
The app can give police an idea of areas with high concentrations of video surveillance systems.
“If a crime was committed,” Cerveny said, “we go canvass an area, look for witnesses to speak with, any other potential evidence. One of the things we look for is video cameras.”
The app, he said, “allows us to communicate with neighbors and communities within each precinct.”
The best thing about the videos posted to the app, Cerveny said, “is it puts that specific suspect at a specific place and at a certain time. It potentially allows a lot of individuals the ability to identify that suspect.”
App users set up boundaries around their home using an in-app map. If someone within the boundaries posts an alert, the app user will be notified on his or her phone or tablet.
Recent postings in an area from 42nd Street west to Interstate 680 and State Street south to Dodge Street showed videos of a car break-in, a photo of a truck that had been stolen, a video of “roaming dogs” and a report of a gunshot.
Omaha police detectives are starting to use the app more and more, Cerveny said. “We have received some responses to our requests for video (of crimes), but I think that will increase as time goes on.”
The app already has been very helpful in theft cases, Cerveny said, including thefts of mail, packages and vehicles.
“It’s a nice resource to have. It helps,” he said. “The most valuable part of it so far is the efficiency. It helps with the efficiency of an investigation” because officers don’t have to canvass such large areas.
1 of 45
A former convict was charged with using a drone to attempt to drop marijuana into the Lincoln Correctional Center yard. Read more
A man walking home from work along the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge used a pocket knife to fight off two attackers, sending both to the hospital. Read more
An Omahan was scammed out of $4,800 after trying to buy College World Series tickets. Read more
The Montana man known as the “AK-47 Bandit” who robbed several banks in at least five states, including Nebraska, was sentenced to 35 years in federal prison. Read more
A mall security guard was arrested on suspicion of making terroristic threats after threatening to shoot at suspected shoplifters fleeing in a vehicle. Read more
Travis Fieldgrove, who had sex with a woman who was both his wife and his daughter, was sentenced to two years in prison. Read more
A 28-year-old Omaha man was accused of spanking a 2-year-old girl so hard that she suffered multiple internal injuries. Read more
A man walking in Lincoln was struck in the genitals by a bullet after he dropped a .22-caliber handgun and it discharged. Read more
An 18-year-old man who police say was driving a stolen car was fatally shot by a friend of the car’s owner in Council Bluffs. Read more
A Tecumseh, Nebraska, man shot two former co-workers after they forced their way into his home and tried to fight with him, according to the State Patrol. Read more
A North Carolina man was arrested by Lincoln police after they say he attempted to kidnap a 14-year-old girl and take her to live with him in Wisconsin. Read more
A Shelton woman was driving north on U.S. Highway 281 when a man who’d been kicked out of another vehicle forced his way into her van. The woman, frightened by the man, took her infant and left the vehicle. But the suspect didn’t get far because the key fob remained with the woman. Read more
A staff member at the Tecumseh State Prison was attacked when an inmate’s cell door was mistakenly opened. Read more
More than 200 dead cattle and another 200-plus in questionable condition were found on property in Fillmore County, Nebraska, investigators said. Read more
The SUV of an Omaha woman was repeatedly rammed from behind in a Taco Bell drive-thru lane by a man who later got into the woman’s vehicle and drove it into the concrete base around a light pole. Read more
A 17-year-old boy was taken into custody after he took an unloaded 9 mm handgun to school, La Vista police said. Read more
A woman was injured after being put in the trunk of a car that fled police and crashed, police said. The woman had been reported abducted. Read more
A trip to Arby’s for lunch turned into a dangerous road-rage incident in Elkhorn when a driver got out of his car with a handgun and shot the tire on another man’s pickup truck. Read more
A 33-year-old man accused of leading Omaha police officers on a high-speed chase across the city had tried to run over officers, a prosecutor said, before the chase ended at The World-Herald building. Read more
A teenager was sentenced after luring a man for sex and fatally wounding him during a robbery. Read more
DNA helped lead police to man charged in a Guaca Maya slaying. Read more
A former U.S. Air Force counterintelligence specialist who defected to Iran has been charged with revealing classified information to the government in Tehran, including the code name and secret mission of a Pentagon program, prosecutors said. Read more
A masked man shot a clerk inside the Bucky’s convenience store at 30th and Dodge Streets about 3 a.m. She was taken to the Nebraska Medical Center with an injury that wasn’t considered life-threatening. Read more
A 25-year-old man suffered a gunshot wound after he went to confront a 50-year-old man at his home. Read more
An Iowa woman has been charged with five felonies after authorities alleged that she stole $3,535 worth of pull-tab lottery tickets while she worked at a convenience store. Read more
A 33-year-old man accused of cutting his girlfriend with a sword was covered in blood when police arrived at a house in Lincoln. Read more
A parolee is back in jail after punching a man who was a Tinder date for his girlfriend’s friend, according to a court affidavit. Read more
A grenade found in a dumpster in southeast Nebraska was disposed of by Nebraska State Patrol troopers. Read more
A Lincoln man upset that his wife and a friend were talking too loudly as he was trying to get to sleep walked downstairs and pointed a gun at his wife, police said. Read more
DNA evidence led police to issue an arrest warrant in an unsolved 2013 slaying of a Ralston woman. Read more
An Omaha man was arrested after an investigation indicated he had allowed two adult pit bulls to starve to death. Read more
A standoff with Omaha police ended after a man fell off an SUV, where he had been standing and shouting. Read more
Law officers from multiple agencies converged in rural Nebraska on Monday after a man exchanged gunfire twice with officers and escaped from a traffic stop by stealing a sheriff’s vehicle. Read more
An Iowa woman who went to prison for sex with 17-year-old ward of the state said she feels shame and remorse. Read more
The former pharmacy director for Children’s Hospital & Medical Center accused of embezzling more than $4.6 million from the hospital pleaded guilty to wire fraud Monday in U.S. District Court. Read more
A 22-year-old man reportedly drove drunk to the parking lot of the Lancaster County Jail, where his vehicle was spotted weaving and driving over an island. His blood-alcohol content was .172, Lincoln police said. Read more
An injured, naked woman was found outdoors in midtown Omaha on Monday and taken to the Nebraska Medical Center, said Officer Phil Anson, a police spokesman. Read more
A woman has filed a police report accusing Steve LeClair, an Omaha firefighter and the president of the firefighters union, of assaulting her in November. Read more
A Nebraska woman who has been charged with incest told a police officer that she wanted to have sex with her father because of a competition with her half sister to see who could do it first. Read more
Omahan 'rings' in the new year in prison for theft of $629,000 wedding ring. Read more
A club basketball coach who promised weekends of tournaments, personalized jerseys and cookie dough for fundraising took parents’ money and didn’t deliver, authorities say. Read more
Omaha ended 2018 on a high note not seen for decades — no one was criminally slain in Omaha in the final three months of the year. Read more