By Jeff Wagner

COON RAPIDS, Minn. (WCCO) – Neighborhood watch has a new meaning when it comes to catching for criminals in Coon Rapids.

The police department is partnering with homeowners who have home surveillance cameras.

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It’s like having a crime fighting partner — up and down each block in the community.

At the Oltmanns house, security comes in many forms.

One of the dogs carries quite the bark when people approach the door, but Greg Oltmanns mainly relies on his surveillance cameras.

He has enough of them to have the entire perimeter of his house covered, with one in particular that has a great view of the intersection near his home.

“I mean they just went by here like a bullet,” he said, describing a speeding car that blew through the stop sign at the intersection.

With his desire to keep an eye on his neighborhood, it’s no surprise he was one of the first signed up for the police department’s new community watch program.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “I love the Coon Rapids Police Department.”

By registering, police know that if a crime happens on Oltmanns’ block, he’s someone they can rely on.

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“It’s a great tool for us because it gives us a place to start,” said Cpt. Jon Urquhart, with Coon Rapids police. “We either have photos of a potential suspect or we have photos of a vehicle that we would be able to make some connection with information that we already might have.”

Those registered get a window sticker. A green sticker means you have cameras, a blue sticker means you’re at least a reliable contact.

Officers can look up program members from their squad car computers.

“We call them, we go, ‘Hey, is it OK if we maybe look at your footage?’ We would give them maybe a time frame to look at, maybe we’d ask them to look themselves,” said Trish Heitman, of the police department’s community outreach group.

She did the research on how to bring the new program to Coon Rapids.

She said the Coon Rapids Police Department is one of the first departments in Minnesota to deploy such a program. It’s one Oltmanns hopes will catch on with his neighbors.

“I hope that some of the bad guys out there are looking at the videos and stuff and say ‘Well, I’m gonna stay away from Coon Rapids,’” he said.

Heitman said about two dozen people have already signed up for the program and now they’re working on getting small businesses involved.

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To learn more about the Coon Rapids program, click here.

Jeff Wagner