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SafeCam

Valparaiso Police Chief Jeff Balon, left, and Porter County Sheriff Dave Reynolds unveil the new SafeCam surveillance camera registration program.

Police investigating the melee at Growlers on Highway in Highland issued a call for anyone with video, or anyone who witnessed the fight, to contact police.

The Lake County prosecutor also called in the Northwest Indiana Major Crimes Task Force to sort through conflicting accounts of the incident, which culminated in two off-duty Region police officers being shot.

There's one more step they should take that would with future criminal investigations. It involved borrowing an idea from a neighboring county.

The Porter County Sheriff's Department and Valparaiso Police Department have teamed up to create a voluntary registry of surveillance cameras used by homeowners and businesses in their jurisdictions.

They announced the new program early this month.

Police investigating crimes often canvass the area in hopes of locating surveillance cameras that might have caught evidence that would be useful in solving a crime.

The SafeCam program encourages business owners and homeowners to voluntarily register the presence of their surveillance cameras with the two departments.

"It's not in real time," Valparaiso Police Sgt. Mike Grennes said. "We're not asking for access to the video system."

Police would be able to see what cameras are in the area they're investigating and be able to contact the appropriate homeowners or businesses to seek permission to view the footage.

"This is a voluntary, free and confidential program," Porter County Sheriff Dave Reynolds said.

Registered cameras appear on a computerized mapping system that only police can access.

Those homeowners and businesses will be provided optional window stickers announcing their participation in the program. That's a good deterrent to any criminal who sees the sticker.

In the Growlers case, a source close to the investigation said surveillance footage of the melee is not definitive. That source said it’s unclear to what extent police officers on the scene participated in the melee.

“If it was definitive, police officers already would have been charged," the source told The Times Tuesday.

Highland detectives are urging the public to come forward if they have cellphone video or witnessed the fight. Call Detective Cmdr. Ralph Potesta at the Highland Police Department at 219-838-3184.

We wish the task force luck in sorting out what happened.

We also urge the task force to take the lead in establishing a registry in Lake County similar to the one being developed in Porter County.

Speeding access to surveillance footage — on a voluntary basis — means many crimes can be solved more quickly.

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Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Local News Editor Marc Chase, Lake County Editor Crista Zivanovic, Porter/LaPorte County Editor Doug Ross and Deputy Local Editor Erin Orr.