Enquirer Herald

Cameras to capture domestic cases

YORK -- A picture is worth more than words when it comes to domestic violence.

It captures the bruises, cuts and setting in which it happened, says York Police Chief Bill Mobley.

Local law enforcement agencies are happy they'll be able to provide more of that picture-perfect evidence with new digital cameras the 16th Circuit Solicitor's Office purchased for patrol officers in York and Union counties.

"It's something that's going to be beneficial to everybody," Mobley said.

All municipalities will get cameras, excluding Rock Hill, where officials already had purchased some, Solicitor Kevin Brackett said.

"It concerned me that the patrol didn't have access to digital cameras," Brackett said. "We are trying to get out in front of the issue and make sure law enforcement has all the tools they need."

The cameras will store up to 900 photographs and capture short video clips. Officers received training last week from a professional crime scene photographer on how to use the new tools, Brackett said.

York is getting 20 cameras and Clover is getting about 15.

While primarily for domestic violence, the cameras also will help at other crime scenes such as a murder investigation, Mobley said.

"Patrol officers are usually the first ones on the scenes and generally they'll be the ones to get the initial photographs showing what a scene is like when officers arrive," he said.

Some of the York Police Department cell phones also have cameras in case they need to take an impromptu picture.

Digital video and photos can be easily dispersed and helps officers make a quick arrest, Mobley said.

The cameras, which cost nearly $25,000, were funded by federal grant money and state funds earmarked for establishing a domestic violence unit in York County. The cameras also will be used to document other criminal activities, officials said.

"It doesn't matter how articulate an officer may be, there's no way anyone can truly communicate to a court or jury what they actually saw at a crime scene," York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant said during a press conference held Wednesday. "Photographs speak."

Brackett said lack of pictures caused prosecutors to lose some domestic violence court cases.

"We were not bringing to the jury everything we could," Brackett said. "Jurors want to see as much evidence as possible. We frequently did not have photographs."

Some victims also hampered their chances of getting justice, Brackett said.

"The victim is intimidated by her abuser, comes to court and doesn't want to cooperate," Brackett explained. "They will minimize the extent of their injuries or claim they were the aggressor. Photographs can help establish the extent of injuries.

"This (digital cameras) can be a valuable tool to record the victim while she's under the influence of the event," Brackett added. "She's going to be distraught. That's powerful evidence that a jury needs to see."

-- Adam MacInnis contributed