Vail’s surveillance cameras are becoming more useful |

Vail’s surveillance cameras are becoming more useful

Camera system first installed for 1999 ski championships was upgraded again for 2015 championships

The town of Vail's network of surveillance cameras helped in the arrest of a suspect in a Jan. 2 vandalism case.
Where are they? The town of Vail has security cameras: In town buses. In the parking structures. Throughout the resort villages.

In a matter of days, security cameras in public areas in Vail helped with the arrest of suspects in a Jan. 1 assault and a Jan. 2 vandalism case.

The suspects, who both turned themselves in, were tracked down thanks to the town’s numerous security and surveillance cameras. Images released brought a host of tips to police.

Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger said the town’s camera network was first created for the 1999 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. The system was beefed up in time for the 2015 championships.

Henninger said there are still some camera housings in place from the 1999 system.

But many, if not all of those cameras have been updated over the years.

Vail Information Technology Director T.J. Johnson said cameras are often updated on a somewhat regular basis.

How the cameras work can be somewhat complicated. Some use parts of the townwide Wi-Fi system, others use a kind of digital radio signal. Johnson said the resolution level of the cameras depends on where they’re located, how they’re used and how much video is stored on servers.

Some cameras have internal storage, while other cameras broadcast their footage to servers in real-time. But, Johnson said, all that footage eventually ends up stored on a physical server.

You’re on camera

The town has long had video cameras on buses, Henninger said. Signs on the buses notify passengers they’re being recorded.

While the cameras are always on, Henninger said police only use them to gather evidence in the wake of incidents.

In the town’s public areas, Henninger said many of those incidents are assaults.

“These are significant crimes,” he said. “We’re not talking about shoving on a bus.”

Recently, the Vail Town Council approved hiring a video evidence technician for the police department. If an incident has been reported, that person will look over images from the appropriate cameras, helping police find the most useful images possible.

Larry Leith owns Yeti’s Grind coffee shop in Solaris Plaza. Leith also owns several Tokyo Joe’s restaurants on the Front Range. Leith said while none of those stores have internal cameras, he’s happy to have Vail’s system in place.

“Being a parent with kids, when they’re out in town, I probably feel better having them,” Leith said. “Hopefully people (with ill intent) will go somewhere else.”

Buzz Schleper, owners of Buzz’s Boards in Vail Village, said that store has security cameras in place. Those in-store cameras are “very beneficial,” Schleper said. Schleper’s a fan of cameras in public areas, too.

Not spying

“They’re not spying — they’re looking for crime,” Schleper said. “If (cameras) help nab a suspect, that’s even better.”

Besides helping identify suspects, Schleper said cameras in public areas could be useful in clearing people accused of crimes, particularly if there’s a dispute over who started a fight or was present when an incident took place.

Matt Fitzgerald is the branch broker of Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate’s Lionshead Village office. That office is in a prominent location.

There’s in-office security, and Fitzgerald said there haven’t been any incidents outside the building.

But, he added, “It’s been interesting to see how (cameras) have helped law enforcement.”

Henninger said the town’s camera system is becoming more useful all the time.

“We’re using them more and more often,” Henninger said. “We have some good systems in place.” Those systems become more useful as the technology improves.

“And we’ve been able to show that this isn’t Big Brother,” Henninger added. “We’re only using them when we’ve identified a crime.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at or 970-748-2930.

Support Local Journalism