CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – The Clay County Sheriff’s Office has arrested 36-year-old David Michael Lawson of Orange Park, after he allegedly stole items from vehicles on William Ellery Street, including a gun. The Sheriff’s Office is crediting home surveillance video with helping crack the case.

“The video surveillance was absolutely invaluable,” the sheriff’s public information officer Chris Padgett told First Coast News. “At the end of the day, community partnership like this is something that we never take for granted.”

Alicia Harper provided the video, caught by a camera she and her husband had installed only about a year ago.

“Just for peace of mind we put it on the house,” Harper explained. “I’m ecstatic, I’m so happy that it was able to be used for something beyond what I would have expected.”

We visited Godfather Spy Shop in Jacksonville for information about security systems.

“In 2013 we’d maybe get maybe four or five residential installs a month,” Daniel Entenza began, “and now, in 2018, we’re probably getting closer to 20 residential installs a month.”

Entenza attributed the increasing popularity at least in part to dropping prices.

“Systems that were $10,000 installed ten years ago are now $2,000 installed,” he said.

Harper said her system, which she self-installed, cost about $179 at Target, noting that there are ongoing subscription fees that vary based on preferences, to store video. After hearing that her video helped nab a suspect, she’s convinced it was a great investment.

“I’m hooked! I’m definitely not going to ever leave the subscription,” she said. “I’m going to recommend it to my friends, my family.”

Estenza said his business installs systems that are more expensive – a four-camera setup installed costs about $2,000 – but they don’t require ongoing storage fees. He said either approach is fine depending on a homeowner’s finances, but he did make some strong recommendations.

“You want to go with at least four-megapixel cameras,” he said, adding that camera placement is crucial.

“A common mistake that I see is on front door cams,” he said. “Sometimes they’ll put the camera up above the head, so, like, an upper headshot, and that is effectively useless.”

Continuing the example, he said “A better placement would be, if you can, draw the wire down closer to the door. If you can’t do that, try and get a further-angled shot, so you can actually angle it down a little bit … so you’re going to get a better shot off the soffit of the garage looking toward the front door, zoomed in, than you are on the overhead of the front door looking down at the top of someone’s head.”

Another decision he said is also critical, is where the in-home storage hardware is located.

“First thing [burglars] go for is your electronics. If you’ve got your TV, your DVD player, your Blue Ray player, and your home camera system all in the same place, they’re going to take that.”

Meaning, the crooks can steal the evidence along with everything else.

“When we do our installs, we either hide it in, sometimes an attic, or, if we can get power up there. Almost always, a closet that has power in it,” Estenza cautioned.

Whether you’re in the market for a video surveillance system or not, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office says it can only help solve a crime.

“The video is what helped link the suspect and these burglaries together,” Padgett said of the thefts on William Ellery Street.

But even in the absence of a complete camera and storage system – there are fake “dummy” cameras available for about $20-30 featuring solar-powered LED to look more real – Padgett said the appearance of a camera, real or not, can thwart a criminal.

“There are so many crimes we probably don’t know about that were prevented because a criminal saw video cameras,” said Padgett.

David Michael Lawson of Orange Park is charged with burglary, dealing stolen property, and giving false information to a pawnbroker. He is being held pending further charges.

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office urges citizens who have information or evidence about a crime to report it using the agency’s “See Something, Say Something” link. Submissions can be made anonymously.