‘Silent witness:’ Growing number of personal dash cameras helping police investigate, solve crimes

DAYTON — A growing number of people installing dash-mounted cameras on their personal vehicles for their own protection has also become a handy resource for area police departments investigating crashes and even some crimes.

>>Police search for vehicle that fled crash with Dayton fire engine

Last week, a Dayton Fire Department fire engine was involved in a hit and run crash. It was considered an open case until a citizen reported to police that they had footage that captured the incident.

“Luckily a citizen reported that they had a personal dashcam in their car, they provided that footage to the police department, which ultimately is going to help solve this case,” Sgt. Gordon Cairns, Dayton Police Traffic Services Unit supervisor told News Center 7′s Mike Campbell.

The crash involving the fire engine was just the latest instance of police using personal dash cameras to help solve a case. Cairns said recently submitted video from a driver’s personal dash camera helped establish facts in a deadly motorcycle crash on I-75 near Stanley Avenue in July.

>>Dayton police ask for public’s help finding witnesses to deadly motorcycle crash

In the weeks after the crash, police had asked the public for assistance in getting information to help establish what happened.

The motorcyclist, Stephen Downey, 42, of Miamisburg, was killed in the crash after hitting a dump truck. Cairns said the dashcam footage submitted to police showed the motorcyclist was riding in what police would consider an unsafe manner and cut-off the dump truck driver before the deadly collision.

Dashcam footage is becoming so widespread that its sometimes referred to as the “silent witness” in police investigations.

One industry watchdog said the number of cameras sold jumped 20 percent from 2017 to 2018. While there was a slight drop during pandemic lockdowns, sales are expected to increase another 35 percent this year.

Police believe citizen dashcam footage will become a common tool for them to use even for minor neighborhood and roadway incidents. Cairns said another case his unit is working involved a simple rear-end collision on the highway, but one vehicle left the scene. Police are reviewing submitted citizen dash cam footage to identify the driver and vehicle involved.

The advent and implementation of the new technology has been considered a welcome bit of assistance for police. Investigators welcome anyone who witnesses a crime or incident that was captured on a personal dashcam to contact police and review the video to help solve the case.