Social Question

wundayatta's avatar

Should I install a video camera on my house to help my neighborhood fight crime?

Asked by wundayatta (58505points) February 27th, 2013

There’s a meeting in my neighborhood this week where folks will be discussing the installation of video cameras on people’s houses to monitor the streets. These video feeds could be recorded by the police, although I doubt they will be monitored.

This is in response to a series of muggings that have been happening over the last few years. One just happened on one corner of my block, while a burglary at a house at the other end of the block happened last week.

Do you think have cameras around will help? You might want to read this article about the experience of Chicago. It seems that cameras aren’t necessarily helpful, and it really depends how they are used. Although I don’t believe any information in that article rises to the level of science.

Should I support cameras? Be against them? Ignore the whole thing? I fear that this is a knee-jerk response to fear, and people will spend money for nothing, although cameras cost very little these days.

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27 Answers

LuckyGuy's avatar

Absolutely! You can get a small yet useful system for about $200–300. You can set them up to record all the time or only when there is motion. If the camera has internet access it can show the images on your handheld device if it detects something.
You should have multiple cameras that have their own IR light sources and make sure each one is in view of the other . Also buy a couple of true black long wave IR stealth cameras. The smarter bad boys can’t see them with their IR detectors.

You can have one house recording the plate number and time of every car that drives down the road. Another house can record the sidewalk. Another can cover a particular street corner. You can be part of the solution instead of wringing hands and “saying ain’t it awful.”

Full disclosure: I have some financial interest in security system cameras. One of the arms of my company installs these in areas that need higher security, such as, public Gem and mineral shows and other places. The cameras take a picture of every person entering the facility, and record if there is any motion near any of the products.
We can see if someone picks up two items and puts down one. Or who broke what and if it was an accident. Every frame is time and date stamped for evidence.
You don’t want our systems. They are overkill and are too expensive for your situation.

Shippy's avatar

I tend to think they help after the fact. But if a lot of signage is used it could act as a deterrent. Being in SA I would say yes, it does help. Most higher grade areas have them as par for the course. You can also have part of it linked to your own monitor to keep a watch yourself.

Berserker's avatar

I think it could help. A lot of burglaries go unsolved and the ones responsible never get busted due to lack of much information. But if it happens and your camera actually records it, this could give the cops a lot more to work with.

rojo's avatar

Yes, put it up and record from it.
We put up a simple game camera (with 8Gig SD card) and were able to find and prosecute a thief based on the photo’s we generated. Got pics of both people, the truck and the license plate and them loading up our stuff in the truck. Made it real simple for the police and got one guy off the streets for a time.

flutherother's avatar

Security cameras will deter crime. I don’t see them as being an infringement of privacy as no one will ever look at the footage unless a crime has been committed and you won’t see anything you wouldn’t see from your window.

The headline in your link is negative which is odd as the article goes on to say violent crime went down by 30% while arrest rates are slightly up.

woodcutter's avatar

I put up a fake one that has a motion sensor and a blinking red light. It sweeps back and forth when it senses motion. It looks a bit cheesy but it might make some of the dumb prowlers get cold feet. I went to the trouble of installing a fake length of signal cable that enters a hole in the siding so it at least looks like it goes somewhere. I have some motion sensor lights that light up some darker areas that might be attractive for bad guys to hide in. I have a motion alarm that sounds if someone breaks the trigger should they come at us from the back. We have two big dogs that will make a lot of racket if anyone gets close to the house. And the fake sign from So And So Alarm Co. that I found at a job demolition. We haven’t had any problems so far but we have no way of knowing why. Pretty darned impossible to prove a negative.

bkcunningham's avatar

I don’t believe having a camera on the outside of your house is going to help deter crime. It is a knee-jerk, feel good reaction, IMHO.

LuckyGuy's avatar

The motion sensing and alarm functions of the camera can be mated together with other external sensors to prevent false positives.
You set the camera recording such that it is pre-triggered, typically 30 seconds, before the intrusion. That alarm is Anded with an acoustic motion sensor and a passive IR device . When all three see the signal within X time the alarm goes off. You can watch the activity on your computer or remote device.
It might not stop the a crime from taking place but it will give HD quality images of who did what to whom, when they did it and exactly how many times.
That is the kind of evidence police need to take them off the streets.

I figure if you are not willing to personally protect your property and neighborhood with your own weapons, a good surveillance system is the next best thing. One of the cameras should be devoted to covering your neighbor’s house. (With their permission of course.)

LuckyGuy's avatar

Besides “fighting crime” this project will draw the neighbors together. Your quality of life will go up in many ways.

woodcutter's avatar

Electronic surveillance is only a part of being secure. You can’t expect that to solve problems my itself. People have to be willing to at least put some skin in the game. That is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. Lacking the will to do that is tantamount to doing nothing at all. It’s your neighborhood, fight for it.

or don’t

Berserker's avatar

@woodcutter Understandable, but people can’t go out wielding sacks of doorknobs and being all vigilante style, either. How would you suggest putting skin in the game and getting the road to meet with rubber?

woodcutter's avatar

@Symbeline Just make an effort to be out walking about the area and looking at people. Neighbors can organize and take turns doing it but there will be some who, because of things going on can’t do much but all it takes is a few being noticed from time to time by those scouting for the next hit to be discouraged. If they see some random dude watching them one day and a different guy on another, they will get the impression there is someone watching all the time when there really may not be. Get those small “walkies” to call others, or cell phones, when something suspicious is happening. Most mobile phones have a camera so we all are pretty much ready to go with just the stuff we already have. The bad guys don’t like areas where the people give a shit about. If there is a car pulling up to a house there every two minutes and leaving right away there is a problem. It is probably a rental home and they are moving dope. That in and of itself is a criminal magnet that will spill over into the rest of the area. Nobody wants to be a snitch but looking the other way means it is only a matter of time before you are going to be dealing with problems. If the “hood” has slid too far to do anything then you might just have to un-ass the place and live somewhere else. When people stop caring is when trouble comes a knockin.

Berserker's avatar

@woodcutter Yeah, but you’d have to be willing to set up walk watches and stuff with all the neighbors. Not saying that wouldn’t work, in fact that’s a pretty cool idea. That is if people were willing to set this up. If it was actually possible for the town hall to organize some kind of hood watching program…call me crazy, but I’d actually hire former robbers to do the watches. What better people than former robbers to watch and detect the habits and body language of potential criminals?
Or maybe it doesn’t work that way…
But yeah, organized hood watches. I don’t see why that wouldn’t work, as long as it was kept up.

We sort of have that here, but only for one place. A bowling alley that has been the victim of arson…about four times. Over the years, it just keeps burning down. Prolly some insurance fraud, but now, they have some guy in a security car, kinda looks like a cop car, who just sits in there all day by the building. Walk past, you’ll always see it. Obviously more than one person does the job of sitting in the car and watching, but it’s being done.

AshlynM's avatar

To add the article, cameras are usually stuck in one spot, so not really helpful if you want to see what’s going on in other areas of the video.

I think a neighborhood watch is your best bet, that way you’re out and about and actually watching people instead of cameras doing the work for you.

woodcutter's avatar

@Symbeline It sure will depend on who is living there. If it is a place where everyone wants to keep to themselves then there won’t be any communicating between neighbors and its every man for themselves. The crooks win.

whitenoise's avatar

We normally forget to lock our doors. I would rather move to a safer place than having myself video taped all the time.

LuckyGuy's avatar

The cameras do it 24 hours day and do it in both visible light and infra red. They also record date and time, and email the evidence. Very few neighborhood watches have that kind of power. True, a camera can only see where it is aimed. That is why you install multiples. You can purchase PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom )systems but they are more expensive. Multiple low cost cameras are very effective and easier to mount and conceal. A few houses instrumented with cameras could positively identify the trouble makers.
What the residents decide to do with the data is up to them.

woodcutter's avatar

In the end whoever wants to keep a handle on their neighborhoods will need to devote time, money, and effort to keep things the way they like. It isn’t going to take care of itself no matter how many laws there are. There are those who urk at the idea they will have to lock their shit up and secure their homes and be vigilant because that’s not the world they want to live in. Well guess what, that world is here and it’s here to stay. There’s no wishing it away.

The meek won’t inherit shit. They’re going to have to fight for it.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

It can’t hurt. Burglary and mugging are acts perpetrators prefer not to been seen doing. Of course, someone might try to steal the video camera!

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence “Of course someone might try to steal the video camera!”. (Or spray paint over it.)
We try mitigate that a number of ways. :
1) Every camera is in view and covered by another camera. Sometimes there are a couple of true black, lipstick cameras covering one “honeypot” camera.
2) All cameras are set to pre-trigger and begin recording a set time interval before the event. We can go as long as 5 minutes.
3) All cameras independently send their recorded data to a remote unit located elsewhere either in another building or IP address. So even if they were stolen that data is already recorded.
4) All cameras send an alarm when video signal is lost or a certain portion of the frame is obstructed .
5) All cameras have their own power supply and infrared source so one failure does not take down the whole system.
6) Some cameras appear to be totally passive. They often are. We use a remote, longer wave IR source to give us a lighting angle and mix things up a bit, so the potential perp’s own detector will not work.
7) We never install a system where all cameras are the same. The technology is intentionally mixed up to catch an overconfident smart guy.
8) Other methods, depending upon the installation and required security. Passive IR, ESD, Capacitive, Acoustic, others.

A $300 color system with audio and a 1 terabyte hard drive is infinitely better than no system at all. They are much better than the old B&W videos we are used to seeing.
These work.

woodcutter's avatar

Don’t leave boxes of the things you purchase out on the curb for pick up. There are some who think that is good to know you are the proud owner of a new big TV. Don’t hang “gun free zone” type of signs at your place. All you are doing is telling a would -be thief that he has a safe work environment. You want to make them self defeat any clever ideas before they act. Staying sucker free in this life is work. A lot of work. Make it a habit.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

@LuckyGuy That is a well thought out system. I am impressed!

wundayatta's avatar

@LuckyGuy What do you think of the Logitech systems?

Also, are there systems that are completely invisible? I would hate to mar the look of my house any further with cameras on it. There is so much shit on houses as it is: satelite dishes and outdoor lighting fixtures and wires running everywhere. It’s really gross.

We already have an alarm system that contains a variety of motion, contact, and sound detection devices. We have a big old ugly sign in our door warning people. We’ve never had an attempt on our house. Although if they did, they’d be very disappointed, since all our electronic equipment is old and worthless and we don’t have any valuable jewelry. The only nice stuff is furniture, which might be a little difficult to move. And even that stuff isn’t in great shape.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence Thank you. We’ve done this more than once. ;-)
There are many additional features but they are more than most people need. OCR for license plate ID, battery backup (up to one month!), target profile/outline detection, auto download, post processing zoom.
I can illuminate with some specific wavelengths and record the reflected and shifted response to roughly determine the material make-up of the object. We can tell you if that gray piece is steel, plastic, aluminum, cloth, etc. We can use thermal imaging to detect temperature differences as small as 0.02 C and can see the warmth from a hand print on a wall and follow foot prints outdoors for minutes. I have taken color thermal imagers out in the woods and can tell if the nests in the trees are occupied or not. I also used it once to help a local hunter find a wounded deer. He had been looking for hours. I found it in less than 10 minutes.
The technology has changed a lot. Anything made before 2010 is a fossil.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@wundayatta An 8 channel Zmodo or Night owl system is a great deal for a reasonable cost. $300–400. With a 1 TB hard drive you can record for about a month. the cameras must be powered 12 volts so you can either go wireless and supply your own gel cell battery or run wires to them.

A 1 TB hard drive will record for about a month, or “forever” if you only record when you detect motion. The Zmodo will email you and connect to your iPhone or other handheld device if you set it up properly.

The downside of most home systems is the IR source. It is slightly visible to the naked eye (for most humans) at night. Also if someone has a handheld night vision system they will see the coverage – so you must make the coverage perfect. 8 cameras will do it.
I always mix it up. I will put a true black stealth cam in the spot most likely to be entered by the pro. They are passive IR and will emit no energy until they are tripped. Then it either takes an incredibly detailed 8 Meg picture every second or begins recording a limited burst of audio and video feed.

If you want something invisible you need to put cameras someplace visible but disguised. The latest bullet or lipstick cams will do it for you. You can convert the peep hole in your front and rear doors to cameras, or put one in the flower pot on the front steps. They can go in the front porch light fixture. We have installed them in the Reese receiver on trucks. Visible but Invisible.

wundayatta's avatar

Actually, more concerned with street crime than B&E. We’d probably have put cameras on the porch roof. Although the crime seems to occur at the corners more than in the middle of the block where we are, so I don’t know how well the cameras might record people. Motion detectors would be tripped all the time since there is constant foot traffic on my block. So the storage would not last forever, but probably would last a long time.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I just PM’ed you with some typical installation photos. You can set the recorder to write over the oldest images in an endless loop fashion. You never have to look at the pictures. If something happens, you go back to that time and check who was walking on the street/driving by/hanging around at that time. You will see them test the system, and walk away, come back and test again, and walk away.
I like the watching them bump their butts against a car to see if it has an alarm. They walk by very casually, ” just minding my own business” and they then turn around and bump the car. They might even do it twice. Then they break in.
We have the whole thing recorded from the car behind. Got you, Scum bag!

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