St. Landry

Mar 26, 2013 11:30 PM by Erin Steuber

OPD Credits 'Virtual Patrol' for Preventing Burglary

In St. Landry Parish, a pair of suspected burglars are behind bars, and the chief credits their arrest with a "Virtual Patrol." It's kind of like an alarm system, only it features real-time video and audio, connected right to the police station. This weekend, "Virtual Patrol prevented a burglary for the first time ever, and it happened right here in Acadiana.

A new sign has popped up in front of Progressive Tractor Co. in Opelousas, "You are Now Entering a "Police Watch" Community." But despite the sign, early Sunday morning the business was broken into. That tipped off a silent alarm, pulling up a live feed at Opelousas dispatch. Two men were seen trying to steal an ATV worth $16,000. And within minutes, police were on scene without the intruders knowing.

"It works. I encourage everyone to get on "Police Watch." People don't need to be stealing your property," said Progressive Tractor Co. Owner, Eddie Villemarette.

The father and son team can be seen in the surveillance running as cops drive up. Douglas Zaunbrecher Jr., and Douglas Zaunbrecher Sr., were arrested for a number of charges, including simple burglary. The ATV was recovered, and Opelousas police say it's all because of "Virtual Patrol," a system they have had in place since January.

"The safety component of knowing what you're dealing with before you actually get there is paramount. It's about being able to understand the situation, to better assess what you need to do while en route to the call," said OPD Chief Perry Gallow.

The "Police Watch" system costs the department nothing. The only cost is on the business itself, and starts around $69 a month.

"When 'Police Watch' was actually formulated, the whole goal was to save lives. We thought one day we would literally stop a crime while it's being committed and lives would be saved," said Director of Louisiana Police Watch, Terry Meche. "So this is really seeing the concept come to reality."

So far six businesses in Opelousas are equipped with "Police Watch." The company is hoping it will expand into other parishes. Louisiana is one of ten states nationwide to use "Police Watch." The company is also developing technology to remotely open and lock doors. The hope is, the technology can be used in schools.

Interested in learning more about the program call Terry Meche at (337) 349-2727.


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