Police say capturing crooks on camera helps convict them in court and put them behind bars, but many local burgled businesses don't have working video equipment.
"It's killing us," said Sgt. Harold Neville, who recently retired from the Chattanooga Police Department as coordinator of the local Crime Stoppers program.
He said many businesses have old or nonfunctioning surveillance equipment or have it set up only to catch internal thefts.
"They concentrate on that instead of getting the fool that's robbing them," he said.
Lt. Alan Chance, head of the police department's property crimes division, said the number of businesses with surveillance tools slowly is increasing.
"These sophisticated systems are really not that costly and are very effective," Lt. Chance said.
Danny Crowe, an ADS Guardian Alarm sales agent and a local Crime Stoppers board member, said it costs $2,500 to $3,500 to outfit a small business with digital recording equipment.
Mr. Crowe said clear footage from five Subway sandwich shop robberies would have helped police identify the robbers. Instead, police said they caught two suspects as they fled from a Subway heist.
"Even though these people cover up their faces, they may not completely cover them," Mr. Crowe said. "If somebody knows you, they can identify you a lot by your dress and mannerisms."
He said new digital technology allows police to see details such as clothing, facial features and getaway vehicles.
Owners of one downtown business recently upgraded its equipment after seeing firsthand how effective such security equipment can be.
The Center for Sports Medicine and Orthopaedics on McCallie Avenue has digital cameras and a network that allows employees to view surveillance from computer monitors.
Chad Broome, a center director, said the CEO of the business was held at gunpoint once and another time footage helped identify a bank robbery suspect who was passing through the area.
"Based on the history of our neighborhood, we decided it would be necessary," he said.
* Local law enforcement officials recommend that all business owners install alarms and surveillance systems to protect their property. These systems help police identify criminals and convict them in court.
Source: Lt. Alan Chance, head of property crimes division for the Chattanooga Police Department