How Wireless Home Security Cameras Help Police Catch Burglars
security systems are helping solve crimes when criminals are caught on camera
A wireless home security camera helped a Boynton Beach, Fla., homeowner and the police catch thieves who were robbing her home red-handed.
After burglars broke into Jeanne Thomas’ house and stole jewelry, a valuable coin collection, video equipment, and irreplaceable baby videos of her son, she installed a wireless home security camera—despite her then-husband’s insistence it was "a total waste of money,” she told ABC News.
Less than a year later, she was dumbfounded when she checked the camera’s live feed from work and found herself watching another robbery in progress. Thomas called 911 and narrated the events streaming from her security camera.
Within three minutes, police arrived and arrested the two burglars without incident—a scene that a relieved Thomas was much happier to watch.
The thieves’ intended haul was still lined up on Thomas’ bed: a safe, a 37-inch flat-screen television, a video game console, and games. Thomas believes the men are the same criminals who hit her house the first time. “It was just surreal,” she told ABC News. “They had no idea I was watching, but I was!”
or witnesses, less than 13 percent of reported burglaries are solved
Burglaries are notoriously difficult crimes to solve because criminals have deduced the best times to strike that avoid witnesses. The majority of break-ins occur during the day, when thieves know homeowners and their neighbors are more likely to be at school, work, or running errands.
Burglars tend to look for houses or apartment complexes where they can blend in, entering a property unnoticed. The average value of the property stolen from each home: more than $2,400.
Many thieves are opportunistic and make spur-of-the-moment decisions to invade tempting targets. But others meticulously research the homes they burgle—casing properties while disguised as a service professional or watching homeowners’ habits or social media posts to determine when it’s safest to break in. In July, a police investigation into art thieves tied to home burglaries in Houston, TX, discovered that the suspects followed their victims’ social media accounts to track when they would be at work, traveling, or even hosting a large party that could allow them to slip inside unnoticed.
Some 1.4 million burglaries were reported in 2017. But with witnesses a rarity and little physical evidence left behind, less than 13 percent of reported burglary cases are solved by police, Pew Research Center reports. In fact, faced with such discouraging odds of recovering stolen goods, half of homeowners don’t even bother to report burglaries to law enforcement—meaning that the number of home break-ins is much higher than is understood, Pew Research asserts.
For the most part, if burglars weren’t caught in the act, the chances have been good that they would get away with their crimes. But now, the growing popularity of home security cameras tied to smart security systems could be shifting the odds in homeowners’ favor.
home security camera systems can give police the evidence they need to catch
It’s long been accepted that prominently placed security cameras can serve as an effective deterrent to crime, motivating potential intruders, vandals, or trespassers to move on to easier targets. Sixty percent of convicted burglars said they scan for visible security cameras before entering a house and 40 percent said they will pick a different target if they spot them, according to a UNC Charlotte Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology study.
But when burglars do break in, smart security systems installed with wireless home security cameras are making it significantly harder to covertly carry out crimes. Not only do smart cameras enable homeowners to check on their homes at any time from anywhere via a real-time feed, but many automatically record and send instant alerts when movement is detected—storing video clips that can be viewed at any time on smartphones or other mobile devices.
If smart cameras are part of a smart security system which is armed, movement simultaneously caught by separate motion sensors can trigger an alarm and alert a monitoring service, which will send the police if the homeowner can’t be reached or confirms the presence of an intruder after quickly viewing the video clips. All cameras will also simultaneously start recording once intrusion sensors spur an alarm. Homeowners that opt for self-monitoring or didn’t arm their system can simply watch the video after receiving an alert from the cameras and call 911 themselves.
The best cameras also feature infrared night vision that enables capturing footage in the dark, as well as remote zoom, pan, and tilt capabilities for better views of a scene. In many cases, these high-quality images can be the only clues police have about the identity of thieves. Security camera footage can also help homeowners take inventory of anything that is stolen and provide proof of loss to insurers as well.
An outdoor security camera helped police identify and arrest two men who broke into a sleeping elderly woman’s home in West Memphis, Ark, stole property and set her table on fire. The camera captured clear pictures of the perpetrators ringing a neighbor’s doorbell before heading next door to her house. One of the criminals was recognized when he returned to survey the damage caused to the elderly woman’s property.
Fortunately, a smoke alarm woke the woman before the fire could cause injury. The burglars were arrested and charged with aggravated residential burglary, theft of property, and arson.
reasons wireless home security cameras make homes safer
There are many commonsense ways to mitigate the risk of home invasions. Don’t post online that you are leaving town, don’t let mail pile up, install smart security systems, and erect visible signage that signals the presence of the security system at your house.
But when break-ins happen, many homeowners are realizing that few things help up the odds of solving a crime as well as quality video of the event. The number of U.S. homes with security cameras jumped from 15.1 percent in 2013 to 27.3 percent in 2016—and there’s no sign of sales slowing down. After all, an alarm will tell you that something happened—but pairing the alarm with a real-time video can show you exactly what’s happening right now.
Consider these four benefits of installing wireless home security cameras in your home:
No criminal wants to get caught. Installing obvious security cameras around your home is often enough to convince perpetrators to seek another target. But here’s a word to the wise: some thieves may try to disable visible cameras, so be sure to place some high enough so they are difficult to reach.
Catch burglaries in
If burglars are bold enough to break into a home despite conspicuous cameras, your security system is designed to catch them in the act—notifying your monitoring service if you have one, sending instant alerts to your smartphone that motion has been detected, and recording real-time footage of the burglary in progress. As the case of the Boynton Beach, Fla., homeowner demonstrated, such instant reactions are the best way to catch thieves and ensure they suffer the consequences of their actions.
Positioning cameras to cover points of entry or concern is important and may include prime locations like the front porch, behind the house, first-floor windows, side gates, driveways, and facing the street. Many security experts insist that front porch cameras are the most important home security investment a homeowner can make, with 100 percent of convicted burglars surveyed in a KTVB Channel 7 report saying that they always knock on the front door of a house before breaking in.
Investing in quality cameras with high-definition video resolution and wide-angle views is key to identifying criminals caught on video. Clear footage provided by wireless home security cameras creates evidence that can be presented to the police if criminals escape before they arrive, making it much more likely they will be identified and caught.
To avoid washed-out images and glare, refrain from pointing cameras at direct light sources such as windows or the sun. Doorbell cameras can clearly catch an intruder’s face, while indoor and outdoor cameras positioned with a bird’s-eye corner view can document a full scene. For tips on hiding security cameras in plain sight, check out our previous blog on “How How to Install Security Cameras Without Ruining Your Home Décor.”
Police in Jersey City, NJ, recently launched an effort to catch porch pirates by using doorbell home security cameras and dummy Amazon boxes with hidden GPS tracking devices. Locations for the sting were chosen based on the city’s crime statistics and a map of high-theft locations provided by Amazon.
The first box was stolen within three minutes—so fast, that the police at first thought it was a mistake. Thanks in large part to the camera footage, the thief was caught. “Most of the package thefts we’ve made arrests on revolve around (closed-circuit TV) or private surveillance cameras that give us a still image,” Jersey City Police Chief Michael Kelly told the Associated Press.
Ensure your loved ones are safe
For many homeowners, a major benefit of wireless home security cameras has nothing to do with catching thieves. When they are linked to a smart home security system, wireless cameras also offer a unique opportunity to keep an eye on pets and loved ones inside the house. They provide peace of mind by enabling homeowners to see and speak to kids home alone after school, check on elderly parents, calm anxious pets with the sound of their voice, or monitor unsupervised workers such as nannies or cleaning crews.
wireless home security cameras can help prevent crime—and catch criminals if
one has been committed
Wireless home security cameras are a proven method for deterring or catching thieves. When criminals target a home, cameras and a smart security system stand as the first line of defense, alerting homeowners about crimes in progress and capturing clear evidence that significantly improves the chances that perpetrators will be caught and punished.
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