MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Technology that allows officers to see in complete darkness is helping the Golden Valley Police Department nab bad guys.

“Thermal imaging uses a heat source, so it can see in total darkness,” said Sgt. Randy Mahlen.

The department’s squad-mounted thermal imaging cameras led officers to six thieves, accused of breaking into cars near 23rd Avenue North and Decatur Avenue North last month.

An investigator called to the scene used the high-tech devices to detect the group tampering with cars in the neighborhood.

“He was actually able to see these individuals several blocks away as they were walking down the street,” Mahlen said.

(credit: CBS)

It also assist officers locate cars that could have been used to commit a crime.

“After the fact, the officer drove the perimeter and found a warm vehicle that stood out because all the other vehicles were cold,” Mahlen said.

The thermal imaging cameras are typically used at night, but they are pretty useful during the daytime as well. If a suspect or missing person is hiding in trees or vegetation, police are able to quickly spot them. As crooks get smart, police have to get smarter.

“It has proven itself, over the last three years, to be a very useful tool for not only catching criminals and suspects, but for locating kids and vulnerable people,” Mahlen said.

These cameras are just one device law enforcement can use in the fight to keep the community safe. Right now, three of the department’s squad cars have the cameras. They hope to outfit their entire fleet with them in the near future.

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