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Retail surveillance catches arson in the act

Published by Jennifer on April 26, 2007 1:55 PM

For most arsons, the thrill of watching their tinder burn is what keeps them coming back for more. However, after setting a dumpster full of donated clothes and toys on fire, Macomb, IL arson Walter Neill has probably seen his last blaze.

Neill, a Macomb citizen, is charged with setting a stockpile of donated clothes, toys and household items afire behind a Macomb Salvation Army. Surveillance cameras outside the store show Mr. Neill as being the last person to be spotted near the dumpster, and it appears that he handled the donations last before the fire started, detectives say.

Usually, surveillance cameras are installed in retail stores to prevent theft and fraud, protect store inventory, and ensure building safety. However, these cameras have also shown to be extremely effective in identifying an arson suspect and helping prevent widespread damage to other businesses and possibly the Salvation Army building itself. As surveillance cameras become less expensive, it's starting to make more and more sense for store owners to put them up wherever they see convenient. Maybe the manager of this Salvation Army had problems with thieves or dumpster pickers and decided to employ retail surveillance. Who would have known that this camera also helped identify an arson -a criminal whose serial burnings could have caused much more damage to other buildings.

Walter Neill is currently under arrest, and his trial begins on May 28.

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