FOX 29 Investigates: SEPTA crime cameras

- Philadelphia and SEPTA police have a new game plan to track down criminals across the city within minutes of a crime occurring. Whether it's a murder, a bank robbery, a shooting or a home invasion, some new tools are putting investigators on the trail of criminals in a matter of moments.

FOX 29's Dave Schratwieser reports.

It was a murder case that rocked Philadelphia. A mother shot and killed, her daughter shot and seriously wounded in the 700 block of North Third Street in Northern Liberties.

"Detectives don't have a lot of information. What they know is it's a couple blocks from an El stop," SEPTA Police Chief Tom Nestel told FOX 29. 

Philadelphia homicide detectives, who spent long hours looking for leads, went searching for something, anything that would help them catch a killer. They were left with just a single piece of evidence.

"Homicide detectives comes up and says here's what I got, brings a picture of a scarf. They recovered a scarf from the scene. That's it," Nestel explained.

Detectives and SEPTA police began searching the video from SEPTA's vast array of surveillance cameras at the Spring Garden SEPTA station hoping to find the man with the scarf.

"They capture video of a guy carrying a scarf. That looks like the scarf recovered at the scene. So they fast forward to immediately following the shooting," Nestel said. "They're looking for the return of that same guy. He comes back and guess what he doesn't have. He doesn't have the scarf."

The video helped lead to an ID and finally the alleged killer who was captured by U.S. Marshals. 

"That simple piece of video provided Philadelphia homicide detectives with a great lead," Nestel explained. 

This case and a hundred others like it has now lead to SEPTA and detectives from Philadelphia's elite special investigation units to join forces to use SEPTA's 28,000 cameras, the cloud and good police work to catch criminals.

"We try to help with investigations that Philadelphia police are doing to address the violence and we use our technology to give them a hand," Philadelphia's Chief of Detectives James Kelly said.

Kelly says it was SEPTA's cameras that helped SVU investigators quickly apprehend the suspect in a Chestnut Hill home invasion and sexual assault in January.

Police say the suspect, it turns out, dropped his SEPTA  TransPass at the crime scene on East Chestnut Hill Avenue. SEPTA police traced the use of that pass in the minutes before the home invasion and then downloaded video of the suspect as he rode the 23 bus along Germantown Avenue. That lead them to the suspect.

"We had seemless cooperation from SEPTA police and Chief Nestel and it was crucial to us bringing that job in," Kelly explained.

Like with this case, a bank robbery at 16th and Market Street in Center City. Within a few minutes of the robbery, SEPTA police were using their cameras at the nearby 22nd Street station to scan for a suspect matching the robbers description.

"As soon as a bank robbery happens, we're looking on our video to see if we can capture him," Kelly said.

SEPTA's crack group of camera operators and detectives spotted the suspect and followed him via video to Allegheny Avenue where he could be seen exiting the subway. Police say this time with his hat off and red dye on his hands from the bank's exploded dye pack in a bag with the money. The suspect was subsequently charged with a string of bank robberies in Center City.

Now SEPTA has added a new wrinkle. The cloud with help of its video technicians and detectives they can now upload video of a suspect to the cloud for easy access to other law enforcement agencies.

And finally, SEPTA and Philadelphia police now share information within minutes of a crime being committed. They quickly check those 28,000 cameras on SEPTA's widespread fleet of buses and trains, along with cameras at hundreds of stations across the city.

Even SEPTA's mobile sentry cameras can be used to help. One captured a shooting in progress at 52nd and Market . Police say a young suspect pulled out a gun and fired on group of men fleeing. One man was hit and later died. Cameras caught the crime and the suspect on video.




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