Norwich surveillance cameras lead to arrests in fraud, gun cases

Norwich — When police and emergency medical responders arrived at the scene of an accident involving three vehicles Thursday morning, they found a man sitting at the rear of a car clutching his leg — an apparent victim.

But a routine investigation of the accident, aided by a city surveillance camera, revealed the man actually had positioned himself on the ground near the vehicle after the accident occurred, police say. The man was arrested shortly after his release from the hospital.

Thursday's accident was just one of several recent examples of how the city's 16 strategically placed cameras, along with the emergency dispatchers behind the monitors, have provided crucial aid in police investigations, said Norwich Police Capt. Christopher Ferace.

“With the use of the security system we were able to arrest an individual trying to commit fraud. I suspect he was going to seek a fraudulent lawsuit or insurance claim,” Ferace said

The cameras cover areas that include Central Avenue, Main Street, Boswell Avenue, Franklin Square and Howard Brown Park. They are linked to police headquarters through a fiber optic network.

At 10:54 a.m. Thursday, police responded to a report of an accident involving three vehicles in the area of 257 Main St. Three victims were treated for injuries, including a pedestrian who claimed to be struck by one of the vehicles.

Joseph Lewis, 42, of 25 Broadway in Norwich, the alleged pedestrian, was still at The William W. Backus Hospital when emergency dispatchers reviewed the video footage captured on a Main Street camera.

The footage showed Lewis standing several feet away when one vehicle struck two other vehicles while backing into a parking space. The car also backed onto the sidewalk where Lewis claimed he was standing.

But it was after the crash occurred that police said Lewis walked to the rear of one of the involved vehicles, sitting down and holding his leg as if he was hit. Police said he never came into contact with any moving vehicles.

After he was released from the hospital police charged him with falsely reporting an incident and making a false statement.

It wasn’t the first time in the last week that police had turned to the cameras for help.

Police had responded to reports of gunfire on Central Avenue early Saturday and used camera footage to track a suspect and collect evidence that led to an arrest of a man on gun possession charges.

Dispatchers followed the video and helped direct police who investigating the source of the gunshot, which rang out during a disturbance outside Jorge’s Sports Bar on Central Avenue. Police said Jorge's has been a trouble spot for fights and disturbances.

Police were already monitoring the crowd when an officer heard the shot fired and the group disperse. Investigating officers found a mostly uncooperative group of witnesses. But a dispatcher, watching footage from a camera, notified police of a man believed to be in possession of a gun running across North Main Street.

Peterson Succes, 27, of Norwich was eventually charged with illegal possession of a handgun. Police said video footage not only shows Succes with the pistol in his hand but also hiding something in an alley. The object was later revealed to be a magazine loaded with five rounds.

“The arrest most likely was not possible without the use of the video footage,” said Norwich Police Lt. James Veiga.

He called the cameras “another tool to better serve the citizens of Norwich.”

In addition to Thursday’s accident investigation, Veiga said a camera also captured footage of a man stealing a vehicle on Central Avenue. The vehicle was later recovered and an arrest is pending.

Ferace said it is impossible to actually monitor all of the cameras at all times but they can tilt and pan to watch a live event and are especially useful in looking at past events. The cameras were paid for through Community Development Block Grants.

New London police had proposed a similar system of cameras, but the estimated $300,000 cost was rejected by the City Council last year.

Deputy Police Chief Peter Reichard said there is an existing system of cameras along the port and waterfront areas, along with some on Bank Street.

“However, they are old technology and in need of upgrades to make them more effective,” Reichard said.

Reichard, a proponent of the installation of more cameras, said “the incident in Norwich and others across the nation show what can be accomplished public safety wise through the use of camera systems.”

G.smith@theday.com

Twitter: @SmittyDay

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