Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"This block under 24 hour video surveillance"

At STL Rising, we trail far behind the trends in new technology. The rest of the world is far ahead of us. In fact, most people reading this site probably own smart phones and flat screen TVs. So, in these times of expanding technology in our daily lives, today we raise the subject of neighborhood watch using low cost digital video surveillance.

Common complaints heard on the neighborhood watch scene are car cloutings and garage break-ins. Technology exists to easily and at minimal cost set up hidden digital video cameras around your neighborhood.

Software triggers the camera to operate based on motion. If there is movement in the pixels, the camera starts shooting. Sensitivity is adjustable so that a falling leaf or chasing squirrel doesn't trigger the camera, but something larger, like a person on foot does.

These systems are becoming more common on private property. Owners can install these systems in the fronts of their homes, back yards, or in alleys. Multiple owners can create networks to cover entire blocks. Big brother watching you? Maybe.

Yet, if you're a would be car clouter, drug dealer, garage thief or grafitti tagger, and you see a sign at the entrance to a neighborhood street announcing the presence of 24 hour digital surveillance, are you less likely to attempt a crime on the block? And if a crime occurs, and the act is caught via digital recorder, does law enforcement have a way to apprehend criminals?

Would you want to expand systems like these in your neighborhood? Should we push for these in areas of increased criminal activity? Is a future with expanded video surveillance likely for St. Louis? Is there a downside?


Mark said...

Living in the city, I've had my car broken into. I've also had previous cars broken into in other cities. I find such crime a staple of cities and have learned not to be too surprised by such crimes anymore.

However, I still would prefer such things don't happen. So we added fake cameras to our building (condo). Flashing lights and all. No luck. Cars still got broken into in our lot.

So then we discussed getting an actual security system with cameras. Microcenter has a number of inexpensive security systems for under $1000 (and under $500 even). However after we discussed this we came to two conclusions:

1. If fake cameras which look convincingly like real cameras don't work, why would real cameras be a deterrent?
2. The thousand dollar security system ITSELF can be a target for theft.
3. If our cars get broken into anyways, what good is video footage going to do? It would be night time footage using some form of night-vision technology which would most likely lack any detail. At only 400 lines, even daytime footage would likely lack detail.
A simple hoodie drawn over a head tightly would hide faces. So the cameras would watch the crime, but wouldn't be able aid in identifying the criminals in any useful way.

Thus the most that could be discerned in a best-case scenario is the time the crime was committed, and where the thieves came from and went before and after the crime(s).

And that's all assuming the police even look at the footage in the first place (which they probably won't).

GregB said...

I can also say from personal experience that the St. Louis city police won't even look at any video evidence.

They won't even come to the scene of a crime unless there was a serious injury; all they do is call back with a "case number" for insurance.

At least in the city of St. Louis, video is worthless, and criminals know it.

Anonymous said...

Why not let each neighborhood decide for themselves? Why should anyone outside the neighborhood be pushing for anything for the neighborhood to do?

Rick Bonasch said...

We use the Club on our car and keep them empty of valuables, have a dog with a good bark, and always hire a house sitter when we're away.

Rick Bonasch said...

To anonymous at 9:31, one reason why people push for security measures in neighborhoods outside of their own is that when all neighborhoods are safer, everyone is more secure.