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Surveillance falls short in sniper case

Businesses are more likely to have surveillance cameras inside than outside.

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CNN's Bob Franken says discredited witness reports have caused police to shift the focus of the latest sniper shooting investigation (October 17)
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Investigators say they use so-called 'ballistic fingerprinting' in their hunt for criminals like the Washington-area sniper. CNN's Michael Okwu reports (October 17)
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• Interactive: The death penalty
• Interactive: Police close in
• Interactive: Suspects' trail
• Story: D.C. area victims
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Suspect vehicles:
White Chevrolet Astro-type minivan with a ladder rack on its roof; Ford Econoline van with a ladder rack on its roof; white box-type truck

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- While you're squeezing the fruit, comparing prices or paying for gas, a store security camera aimed in your direction is likely recording you on tape.

"We can probably go through the whole day being captured on camera without noticing, without knowing," said David Yang of Continental Security System.

But with two million video surveillance systems spying on people across the United States, and the sniper task force examining tapes from cameras at every shooting scene, why hasn't the Washington-area sniper been caught on camera?

One reason is that most stores put their cameras inside -- to catch a thief, a robber, or a shoplifter -- while the sniper shoots outside and out of camera range.

"The theft inside is more of a priority than what occurs outside," said Yang, adding that when you step out the door, you're "pretty much" on your own.

"Once you've walked out of the building, you're no longer being monitored, you're no longer being recorded," he said.

The sniper has killed nine people and wounded three others, all in public places, since October 2.

Linda Franklin was shot in a Home Depot parking garage on October 14. The store only had security cameras inside.

Another victim was gunned down at a Sunoco station in Manassas, Virginia. The manager said he had ordered security cameras, but they had not yet arrived. He said two cameras looking out over the pumps were scheduled to be installed about a week after the shooting.

Had they been in place on October 9, investigators say, they might have helped pinpoint where the sniper was standing when he shot and killed Dean Harold Meyers as he pumped gas into his vehicle.

Another gas station on the opposite corner did have cameras. However, that night the cameras were turned off.

Placement of the inside cameras also vary from store to store, but most put a camera right above the cash register.

One pet store in the Washington suburbs has 18 security cameras. After a bird named Bubba was stolen from his cage, the Super Petz store aimed the cameras up and down the aisles.

The store also has a camera aimed outside.

"We have them out front overlooking the main road out there just so we could get a getaway car," said Tracey Belaeur of Super Petz.

Some store cameras can zoom and track people after they go outside, as was the case recently when a store camera captured a child being slapped, outraging viewers across the nation.

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