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Surveillance cameras play crucial role in Lancaster arson investigation

LANCASTER, P.A. --- Authorities say they reviewed several dozens of hours of surveillance footage leading up to their first arrest in the city hall arson investigation.

Dwain London, Jr, 29, was arrested Monday evening for his alleged role in setting intentional fires at city hall on May 23.

Lancaster Bureau of Police officials credited surveillance footage from the Lancaster Safety Coalition, along with other private cameras, in piecing together their investigation.

The Safety Coalition has 170 cameras throughout the city, monitoring areas day and night.

David Greiner, director of monitoring and evidence, said they can have people watching the monitors for up to 18 hours a day.

"The goal and the mission of the Lancaster Safety Coalition has always been to enhance the safety of the city of Lancaster," said Greiner.

Since its inception in 2005, Greiner said they've assisted police in "thousands" of investigations, ranging from crimes to finding missing people.

"Somebody in distress, smoke from a building, a fight, something like that," said Greiner.

The cameras have a 360 degree range of vision with zooming and panning ability.

Lt. William Hickey with the Lancaster Bureau of Police said understanding where and what the cameras do is now a crucial part of their investigations.

"It's a little bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle, where you're trying to find the pieces and put them together. We can use that to try and we can either show that something did happen or even, sometimes, show that something may not have happened," said Lt. Hickey.

But authorities do not have free reign on the video.

Hickey said a proper procedure is in place, including the need for an official case number, in order for police to access the footage.

"It has to be some part of an investigation- saying we had a vehicle break-in or we had a fraud or we had an assault...Whatever the case may be, we're requesting that video, for a reason, for investigative purposes," said Hickey.

The Lancaster Safety Coalition had a major expansion in 2009 when it had 70 cameras in the city.

Tim Miller, executive director of the Lancaster Safety Coalition, said they expect their service to grow with plans of expanding into the southwestern part of the city.

"I think it's very rewarding for the safety coalition and all of our partners that we play our part in making Lancaster a safe community. Safe communities are strong communities," said Miller.

Lancaster Bureau of Police are still seeking the public’s help in identifying a suspect captured on surveillance footage from a near-by Turkey Hill.

Anyone with information can submit a tip anonymously on Lancaster City/County Crime Stoppers or contact police.

The Lancaster Bureau of Police offers private camera owners, whether residential or commercial, to register their camera on their website to help them know where surveillance may be around the city.

For more information, follow the link here.