Are home security cameras keeping you safer?

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) --- The latest numbers from the FBI indicate violent and property crimes
are going down across the U.S. But that's not stopping Americans from buying more and more home security systems.

More than 22 million people will be using "smart security systems" by 2020, according to research firm NextMarket Insights. In 2014, there were only 3 million users.

NewsCenter 16 asked local police whether or not these home security systems are keeping communities safer.

“I would definitely be supportive of people looking to better protect themselves,” St. Joseph County Sheriff Bill Redman said.

Mishawaka Police Chief Ken Witkowski said it’s tough to give a definitive answer.

“There is a cautionary part of that,” he said. “I wouldn't want people to think, ‘Just because I have a camera system, I am safe. Nothing is going to happen to me.’”

He and South Bend Police Sgt. Kayla Miller agreed the cameras are additional tools for families to use.

“I don't think it's the camera itself that's going to make anyone safer. There's the feeling of security, right? And I think that's ultimately if you feel safe, you're gaining some ground," Miller said.

Miller cautioned that common sense security measures, such as locking doors and windows, still need to be taken.

“The security cameras are just there as another feature, so it shouldn't replace those day-to-day little things you should be doing,” she said.

From an investigative viewpoint, police said some video is better than no video when it comes to catching crooks. Witkowski said his department has solved high-profile crimes using residents’ home security cameras. Miller added detectives find those cameras very resourceful for gathering key, small details.

The St. Joseph County sheriff also agreed.

“Whether it's our officers who actually identify the person or we maybe sometimes put it out to social media or local media asking for assistance on identifying the people in the video that we've captured, it's [a] helpful tool for us in law enforcement to bring those people to justice,” Redman said.

The South Bend Police Department has a program through Crime Reports where residents and businesses can register their cameras. If a crime happens, investigators can look up a map and see where people have registered cameras to see if there are any in the area.

Only South Bend police see the registry, which is voluntary, and owners control access. South Bend police will always ask for permission to view video that may have been captured.