CEDAR RAPIDS — A stolen bottle of liquor. Damaged landscaping.
They might be minor crimes, but Iowa City police officer David Schwindt would like to see them solved.
“I think most people would be amazed by how many of these we have,” Schwindt said of minor crimes in the city.
Schwindt estimates that 75 percent of crimes where a photo or video is taken by a surveillance camera can be solved internally. Officers will pass around footage and, a majority of the time, one or more officers will be able to identify the suspect. The other 25 percent of the time, however, is another story. Either the suspect is not someone with prior police contact, is new to town or is otherwise known to police.
“In the past, it would remain a report taken and we would have no real avenue to take with it,” Schwindt said.
Now that’s changed. Schwindt, the department’s downtown liaison officer, has updated the Iowa City Area CrimeStoppers’ website to include links to crimes with photos or videos, but don’t otherwise warrant a news release from the city. It’s an initiative that Schwindt has been working on rolling out since this winter.
Currently, there are four theft cases listed on CrimeStoppers website, www.iccrimestoppers.org. Schwindt said the website will be updated as more cases come up. He’s hopeful that getting more eyes on those images — in the form of helpful citizens — will aid police in solving those crimes. Citizens also will have the option of entering their email addresses to get notifications whenever the site is updated, either with new cases or arrests in old cases.
Schwindt said the addition to the website will serve dual purposes: closing cases and getting more attention to CrimeStoppers.
“It’s a win-win,” he said, “unless you’re pictured in the pictures.”
Iowa City police Sgt. Scott Gaarde said the unsolved crimes tab will be open to all cases and Schwindt said every law enforcement agency has login information to post to the website.
“I think we’ll do it with any type of footage we can release that doesn’t compromise the investigation,” Gaarde said. “It’s a good way to generate interest. People tend to respond to images better than just words.”
While identifying suspects and closing cases could be resolution — and restitution — for business owners, Schwindt said he’s not interested in racking up arrests.
“It’s the deterrence that’s much more valuable ... than $20 here, $20 there,” Schwindt said. “I would rather see people think twice and be deterred from committing a crime than leave college with a simple misdemeanor.”