Caught on video: Surveillance cameras stolen from two homes in Salem

Police believe the same suspect was caught on video stealing surveillance cameras from two Southeast Salem homes early Thursday morning.

Neighbors in one Salem community are on edge after two home surveillance cameras were stolen in the same area early Thursday morning. Both thefts were caught on video

"(I'm) honestly terrified because our house has been broken into before," Alejandra Zuniga, who lives at one of the homes, told a KATU reporter. "We're like, 'They knew what they were doing. They're targeting our house.'"

Police believe the suspect in both incidents is the same person.

The thefts happened within minutes of each other.

At just after 1:10 a.m. Cindy Hanson said she was upstairs in her house near Richmond Elementary School when she heard something.

"It sounded like the dogs had jumped off the couch or something," she told a KATU reporter.

Hanson said she then received an alert from her surveillance camera out front.

"When I pulled up the feed, he pretty much had it off the wall already," she said, describing the video in which a man with a handkerchief over his mouth appears to pry and yank the camera from a mount near Hanson's front door.

About a quarter-mile away at a house on 23rd Street Southeast, Alejandra Zuniga, a college student, said she believes the same suspect struck again around 10 minutes later.

"We got a notification that there was some activity on the camera," Zuniga explained. "I opened the camera and I see someone like grabbing it. ... My dad got up. There's a baseball bat that we have right by the door. He opened the door but the guy was gone."

Zuniga said her family then called Salem police.

"Everyone was shaking. No one could go back to sleep," she said.

After posting the video on Facebook, she learned about the theft at Hanson's house.

"That honestly calmed me down a bit just because it wasn't just our house that was attacked," Zuniga said.

Lt. Treven Upkes, a spokesman for the Salem Police Department, offered some advice on where to place a surveillance camera.

"The only tips that come to mind would be to install them higher and in locations that people would need some kind of assistance to reach," Upkes said in an email. "Additionally, perhaps people could use different kinds of attachments to help ensure simple hand tools or force will not remove them."

Hanson and Zuniga hope the suspect is caught soon.

"It's a violation," Hanson said. "I work really hard for things that I have and I was angry."

"You'd think if there were cameras watching you, you'd be a bit smarter about what you were doing," Zuniga explained.

Upkes said officers don't have any leads right now other than the surveillance videos.

The latest FBI crime statistics show the rate of property crimes dropped by around 17 percent in Oregon from 2007 to 2017. But the 2017 rate here (2,987 crimes annually per 100,000 people) was about 23 percent higher than the national average (2,362 crimes annually per 100,000 people).

Do surveillance cameras prevent crime?

Researchers at Tennessee's Municipal Technical Advisory Service tell city governments cameras are most effective when combined with other methods. Those include improved lighting, security guards and defensible space. On their own, researchers say cameras have been shown to reduce vehicle crimes, especially in parking garages. But they say some studies showed a crime increase after cameras were installed. And they say surveillance cameras have not been shown to reduce violent crime.

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