Caught on camera; footage shows how camera system reduces crime in Ottumwa

The cameras placed throughout downtown Ottumwa keep an eye on crime.

A $375,000 system keeps watch on downtown Ottumwa.

You've seen the cameras everywhere -- at the high school, the bus stop and even on top of the KTVO studio in Ottumwa. The downtown camera system is the extra set of eyes for patrol officers in the Ottumwa Police Department, and was purchased from a COPS technology grant.

"Where we put the cameras were strategic, obviously, in the downtown area to sort of push crime in other places, trying to remove it from there where we don't have as much coverage with the officers, because they're in the community doing other things," said Lt. Mickey Hucks, of the Ottumwa Police Department. "They're trying to get downtown as often as they can, but a lot of times, it'll push it somewhere else where we actually have marked units and we can sort of deal with it easier in different ways."

The footage shown above was given to KTVO by the Ottumwa Police Department. In it, you can see the cameras capturing accidents all over town. In one incident, the owner of a car comes out of Ottumwa City Hall to find his driver's window smashed. He thinks vandalism, but the cameras show otherwise. It was an accident - a city car driving past grazes the window.

The downtown camera system has caught everything from the accidental to the criminal, to the bizarre. And what the camera at the intersection of Market and River caught at the beginning of this year was definitely interesting.

Two women enter the women's restroom on River and Market. A few minutes later, a man enters the men's room. If you watch closely, one of the women comes out of the bathroom to give a signal - knocks on the men's room door - and he comes out to join them in the women's room. About ten minutes later, the city cleaning crew shows up. They see all three exit the women's room looking a little suspicious. Thanks to what that camera captured, Katherine Heredia was arrested for sex trafficking.

And remember Bruce Pollard? He is still sitting in the Wapello County Jail on charges of murder and multiple burglaries for a crime spree he went on in February and March of 2012. Police Chief Jim Clark uses the video of Pollard walking down Main Street as a perfect example of the cameras catching crime in the act - you can see Pollard robbing Appanoose Rapids in broad daylight.

So bottom line - the cameras work.

"We have a lot of eyes down there," Lt. Hucks said. "And everybody knows that we're watching. So our next step we're going to do is put signs that also inform the public that there are video cameras around and they're being recorded. So just so everybody's aware. This is not trying to do something covert, it's an overt thing that we're definitely trying to do to suppress crime. And it's working."