Saturday, April 11, 2009

Web-cam crime fighting

Taking a break from my to-do list, I decided to check There I found an intriguing article about web-cam crime fighting. A home owner had installed a web cam at her home after the home was burglarized. One day while watching the camera feed from her workplace, she witnessed two men robbing her again (they also grabbed a snack from her fridge). She called the police and they busted the perpetrators.

Here's a community policing idea -- what if we install web cams around the city's trouble-spots and then distributed the feed via the city's web page. We could all pitch in to monitor happenings around town. Whenever a resident is curious about activity happening across the street -- say, the shadows moving in the dark over in the park after it is closed -- she or he could log onto the site and get a look. If something fishy is going on, a call could be made to dispatch.

I know, I know -- this idea sounds rather "big brother." But, if the city posted notices (e.g., Notice: This public space may be monitored by video surveillance) and the cameras focused only on public spaces, I think I'd be comfortable with the idea. I might even give up my trashy reality TV shows to watch the realities of our streets.

What do others think? What would be the hardware and software needs of something like this? Are there wireless web cams that would make it possible to move the cameras wherever they are needed? What about legality?


  1. If you haven't already,I'd suggest starting with a quick search for wireless webcams. Throw in solar-powered, unless you want to use extension cords. There are several diyers who've tackled this and I believe there are some commercially available products, but don't be surprised to see price tags around $500.

    Could the city do it? I'd say yes in those areas of the city serviced by wireless network. I don't know why the wouldn't be doing it already. But I don't know why they don't use red light cameras, so I clearly see the world differently than local police departments. Of course, if I was worried about too much automation threatening my job security, I wouldn't be a great fan of technology either.

    Keep in mind that your range (transmitter-receiver distance) may be limited, but I'd think a collection of neighbors in close proximity could have some success. Costco sells wired camera products with dvrs that could partially satisfy your request. These products have an ethernet port, so all you'd need is a wireless IP transmitter.


  2. Pride in Garfield ParkApril 11, 2009 at 12:39 PM

    My sense is the PD is not tech-phobic. They've got those loaded cruisers, stealth traffic monitors, etc. It would be interesting to hear more about red-light monitoring, though.

    A $500 ball park per camera doesn't seem too bad (bake sale, anyone?). I'd volunteer my wireless signal if the city wanted to put a camera in Garfield Park.


  3. I would be scared to see these cameras anywhere other than in public parks and around the city hall. ( I still miss my stolen bicycle. I can't believe they cut the chain right in front of the council chambers!). I think a lot of problem areas are on private or semi private property so it'd be up to the owners to install cameras such as in parking lots etc... I have a brinks system installed at my house. But it does cost some extra funds to run. gotta have a land line (which i NEVER use EVER) and then the security subscription. maybe this home web camera thing is a good idea.

  4. Anduhrew, We have a Brinks system, but do NOT have a land line! They have a wireless radio broadcast option that they claim is more reliable than landlines (in that the land line can be cut from outside the home whereas the radio signal can't). It costs an extra $10 per month, but that is significantly cheaper than the cost of a land line, especially because Verizon doesn't offer a bare bones option.

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