Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Is Cheap Video Surveillance Possible?

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the eye-on-the-lamp-post dept.

Hardware Hacking 700

timholman writes "After a series of burglaries and auto break-ins in my neighborhood, I'm thinking about adding some video security cameras to my home. To me, the object isn't just deterrence — if someone tries to break into my house or my car (parked on the street in front of my house), I'd like to provide a high-quality image of the perpetrator to the police. Inexpensive video surveillance systems, with their atrocious image quality, are nearly useless. The problem is being able to get good image quality at an affordable price. After some research, I've decided that using network cameras to FTP images to a central server over a HomePlug network is the best solution. However, good megapixel network cameras (e.g. Stardot or Axis cameras) can easily cost more than $1,000 each. Has any of you dealt with a similar situation? Is there any way to get reasonable quality (preferably open source) daytime and nighttime video surveillance equipment for home use without paying an arm and a leg? Is it better to go with a couple of expensive cameras, or a multitude of inexpensive cameras? Is paying two to three thousand dollars simply unavoidable if I want to monitor my front and back yards?"

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

IQeye (5, Informative)

kmsigel (306018) | more than 6 years ago | (#23218848)

I've been working with IQinvision's IQEye 511 camera ( for the past couple of months. It is a 1.3MP camera capable of 15 fps. It communicates over and is powered by 100mbit PoE. I think the street price is somewhere around 600-700 dollars, depending on what you get with it (PoE injector, lens, etc). The camera seems to take pretty good pictures and can deal with pretty varied lighting conditions. It has various ways to retrieve images, like emailing or ftping them to you on a set schedule. Hope this helps.

Re:IQeye (4, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#23218996)

I'm surprised it has to be 600-700 dollars when 8mp consumer digicams are $180 and have an intricate zoom lens you don't even want for surveillance. What we need is a 6mp monchrome sensor with no IR filter, a fixed-length lens, and wifi, for about $100. OK, $130 with a motion sensor. Come on China, you can do it!

Re:IQeye (4, Insightful)

Xzzy (111297) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219198)

There's pretty good motion detecting software out there already.. a bit of time with google should solve that problem.

I've solved the security camera problem with a $50 webcam, but I was only monitoring a desk in a cubicle that had a bad habit of things going missing. Worked pretty well, though lighting wasn't an issue in that case. Neither was cable length, because the camera only had to be a couple feet from the host PC.

Maybe one could rig up something like that, get a couple Fit-PC's (they run around $300 each) and a couple webcams and go from there.

Not sure how to solve low light situations.. but it's a long shot cheaper than $1000 if you can live without it.

Re:IQeye (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219294)

Not sure how to solve low light situations.. but it's a long shot cheaper than $1000 if you can live without it.
My understanding is normal CCDs are IR-sensitive (until they put a filter over them block it). So it just needs an IR light on it. Seems like camcorders used to come with a nighttime mode just like this.

Re:IQeye (3, Insightful)

innerweb (721995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219436)

Camcorders, and other digital optics used to not have the IR blocked. It was not until it became popular to post IR pictures of people in normal clothing became popular. The problem was/is that IR tends to let us imagine we are seeing through the clothing. As one could understand, not something most people want being done. So, congress rattled its saber and the camera manufacturers removed or filtered the IR. This is also related to why digital cameras make clicking sounds that in many cases you can not disable. It was to warn victims of someone taking illicit photographs.

Which just goes to show, anything can be used in ways that were never intended by the inventor/manufacturer.


Re:IQeye (5, Interesting)

hdon (1104251) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219314)

Imagine that! Video cameras more expensive than still cameras!

Incidentally, timholman, I recommend you invest in a quality still-picture digital camera if you want an economic solution for high quality digital imaging.

I'd take a look at buying one of the cheaper Canon Powershot cameras between $100 and $200 for which there exists open source firmware [] . For networking, you might explore whether or not the USB mechanism in the camera can be coerced into the host role (as opposed to acting as a device) which has been accomplished in similar situations for devices such as the BlackDog [] and many iPods with Linux installed [] . With USB device hosting capability in hand, you could then easily connect it to a USB Ethernet NIC for a little over $20.

With your own firmware installed, you might even do something really novel and program the camera to do something that will get the intruder's attention before snapping a photo so that they are sure to be looking right at it, giving you an excellent shot of his or her identity.

Let us know how it goes!

Sorry, wrong URL (3, Informative)

hdon (1104251) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219334)

I meant to give this URL for the "open source firmware" link. I must have messed it up somehow: []

Re:IQeye (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219386)

I'd assume that a large part of the price difference is that a take-pretty-pictures camera has a *flash* for low-light conditions, or can alternatively use long exposure times. Surveillance cameras tend to be video cameras and not have flashes, which probably make low-light operation harder.

Here is a start... (4, Interesting)

neapolitan (1100101) | more than 6 years ago | (#23218850)

Well, you've got to do a cost-benefit analysis similar to a business. In low light it is going to be difficult to get a high-quality images without extra light (obvious you are monitoring them) or a really, really expensive camera which is vulnerable to spray-painting or vandalism itself.

I was going to do something similar at a previous residence, but found that I would have to worry about people stealing the camera, or simply wearing a mask and gloves when they break in, which will really render the best camera useless. In the end, I used a hidden cheap Linksys webcam that was discreetly hidden inside my house, enough to alert me and catch a careless criminal.

I have also had good success with the D-Link products, which are very cheap. []

Also, keep in mind that making your house / area "different" may actually attract more attention. Numerous cameras outside a particular residence screams "important stuff here" if you can't hide them effectively.

Re:Here is a start... (2, Interesting)

greyhueofdoubt (1159527) | more than 6 years ago | (#23218974)

>>In low light it is going to be difficult to get a high-quality images without extra light

I agreed with the rest of your post, but from what I've seen of small CCTV cameras these days, they use IR LEDs for illumination. I have one from DealExtreme ($12) that comes with them built in.


Re:Here is a start... (4, Informative)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | more than 6 years ago | (#23218988)

I use mainly low-end Axis cameras in my department. I have 6 set up constantly updating a dedicated server. 2 are done at the only points of entry for an automobile so we can get license plate numbers, 2 are set up on the doors of laboratories, and 2 are set up at the main entrances. The two times we've had to use data from the cameras showed that the thieves were actually people that we knew. The video quality isn't great (800 x 600). But realistically if the burglar isn't somebody you know, the highest quality video in the world won't help the police unless you live in a very small town.

The surveillence is the easy bit (3, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219100)

Unless we're talking murder or some serious crime, you're probably going to have a hard time getting the police interested in investing the resources to try to identify the perp and hunt them down and arrest them.

Re:The surveillence is the easy bit (3, Insightful)

ePhil_One (634771) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219346)

Unless we're talking murder or some serious crime, you're probably going to have a hard time getting the police interested in investing the resources to try to identify the perp and hunt them down and arrest them.
One of the reasons is because of the difficulty in gathering evidence. About 90% of bank robbers are caught because banks have good surveillance systems. If you can provide the police decent video/photos of the crime/criminals you have a much better chance of getting them involved. They may recognize the criminal already (you may too, criminals tend not to travel far), and if they go to court the chance of success are very high.

Re:The surveillence is the easy bit (1)

j-pimp (177072) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219372)

Unless we're talking murder or some serious crime, you're probably going to have a hard time getting the police interested in investing the resources to try to identify the perp and hunt them down and arrest them.

Well regular thieves eventually get caught, and the police might be able to give the DA a solid case for two robberies not one if they have pictures from a previous one. Also, if you get a license plate number, the police would trace the owner of that. Finally, it might be someone you know.

Re:Here is a start... (1)

Nethead (1563) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219134)

no, octal.

decoy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23219190)

What about a decoy - a cheap camera or a realistic mockup?

I use a simulated video camera... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23218870)

Re:I use a simulated video camera... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23218948)

I don't know why this is troll... simulated video camera has been proved to be as effective as the real one, as a fraction of the real price.

Why not deterrence? (1, Troll)

mar1boro (189737) | more than 6 years ago | (#23218888)

"To me, the object isn't just deterrence â" if someone tries to break into my house or my car (parked on the street in front of my house), I'd like to provide a high-quality image of the perpetrator to the police."

Uh what? In a situation such as you have described, the primary objective of such cameras is to provide a deterrent - unless of course if what you are really after is clandestine high quality imagery of another nature. Your stated situation does not match your stated goal.

Re:Why not deterrence? (2, Interesting)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#23218954)

I agree, deterrence is the first line of home security (thus big signs saying protected by xyz alarm company etc.) and the second is having actual security video. High quality video is hardly necessary for security purposes. Generally one half decent quality face photo will be good enough for the police, but there is ALWAYS the question of whether or not they will do anything with it.

When my car was broken into, the thief had greasy fingers and left large as life well made finger prints on the window. I couldn't even pay the police to take them as evidence. I'm not kidding. Property theft is hardly high on the list when they have terrorists and war protester to chase after.

I was thinking of a motion activated camera (low lux black and white) with software control on the pan/tilt and all remoted to the computer room I have. The latest addition on that is to mount a laser pointer on the camera so that it will point at whatever the camera is following.

This could be either lots of fun with the dog, or quite menacing to a would be robber :)

Re:Why not deterrence? (5, Interesting)

holophrastic (221104) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219086)

There is only one important reason to have video surveillance. I've got a camera outside each entrance to my home -- four. It's not as a deterance. And it's not for security. And it's not to catch the thief.

It's for one thing and one thing only -- insurance. It's really easy to make a claim when you have video footage of someone stealing your stuff. That's it. It doesn't need to be a good quality picture at all. It needs to show a humanoid holding a television.

There are, of course, gravy tastes. Most insurance companies will give you a small discount for having such video. Also, when the cat got out (movers left the basement doors open after they'd left), watching eight hours of video at 16x speed allowed me to figure out that Snickers had crawled into a furnace vent. She came out when we turned off the flow of fresh air.

Re:Why not deterrence? (2, Insightful)

LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219038)

"To me, the object isn't just deterrence"

(Bold added by me to further highlight the already obvious). He's saying he wants a camera that might actually produce images that will identify the intruders on top of being a deterrent. That wasn't so hard to figure out was it? And it certainly isn't as unreasonable or suspicion-worthy as you seem to think.

Re:Why not deterrence? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23219348)

Wow, you are sooooo clever! What's it like, being clever? Is it working out for you?

"Your stated situation does not match your stated goal". You sound like someone aching to be twice your age and twice as witty, but it isn't really working out well for you here.

Where do you live? (3, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#23218890)

Unless you live in a small town a picture of the perpetrator is all but useless. The police really don't care about break and entry anyway.

Re:Where do you live? (1)

MrSteveSD (801820) | more than 6 years ago | (#23218942)

That's true (at least in the UK where I am). Even if the windows were smothered in fingerprints, they wouldn't bother taking them.

Re:Where do you live? (1)

ross.w (87751) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219006)

I live in Australia, and a policeman attending the attempted theft of my father's car explained it this way: fingerprints outside = potentially innocent explanation therefore not evidence. fingerprints inside = evidence of unauthorised entry. So its no wonder they didn't bother taking the prints if they were on the outside of the window. It doesn't prove they were the ones who broke in.

Re:Where do you live? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23219150)

An innocent explanation but reason enough to issue a warrant to search for stolen goods which would be far more conclusive evidence.

I know that police resources are not unlimited, but to me, burglary is one of the most inexcusable crimes. One has a definite right to feel safe in their own home, and someone breaking in and stealing is a violation of that right to safety.

Re:Where do you live? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23218994)

This is very true.

I put together a security system in/around my house after a break-in a few years back. Eight months ago, someone broke into my house and stole $8,000 worth of electronics (two laptops, a desktop, a tv, and some other misc stuff).

The cameras caught a high quality image of the perpetrator, which I turned into police. In addition, I also turned in the serial numbers of the laptops and TV. I was assigned a case number, and I was told I would be contacted a few weeks later.

Nothing is going to happen. The serials were put into a flagging database, but the police aren't going to do anything with the picture. They're far too busy catching drug users than to deal with these "minor" criminals that do burglaries.

You want the cameras to act as a deterrent, because the police aren't going to do anything with the pictures.

Re:Where do you live? (2, Interesting)

Artuir (1226648) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219094)

If you know the cameras won't do anything, don't you think in most cases the burglars know that too? Sure the "profession" attracts a lot of stupid types, but it ought to be common knowledge to even them that cameras don't really mean anything for home security other than a deterrent.

Re:Where do you live? (2, Funny)

C_L_Lk (1049846) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219246)

They do when you post photos of the perpetrator in the act of the crime all over town with a "reward" offer affixed.

Re:Where do you live? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23219480)

Tell me where you live too. And roughly what time you leave for work.

But how to monitor the surveillance cameras .... (1)

karvind (833059) | more than 6 years ago | (#23218906)

I was thinking of putting good megapixel network cameras for surveillance but then I needed to buy another set of good cameras to monitor the surveillance cameras and then another set of cameras ...

Re:But how to monitor the surveillance cameras ... (2, Funny)

Digestromath (1190577) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219168)

I've solved this recursive camera protecting camera issue. I've rigged all my camera sites with low cost, high efficiency, surplus claymore mines. Most burglars aren't to familiar with tripwires or explosive ordinance disposal. It's very effective!

Quick answer - No (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23218918)

The vast majority of CCTV, even professional installed stuff simply isn't of high enough quality to secure identity, let alone a conviction.

If you want the quality then pay the money for good cameras. Megapixel is the way to go, especially if you want to cover a whole front or back yard.

Also don't forget good lenses for them as well. Lenses that did a good job for standard definition often don't cut it with megapixel cameras.

Check out and
I don't work for either of these companies although I have installed the Arecont cameras as part of my job.

The results from the 2M Arecont camera was described by the police officer as the best CCTV he had ever seen. Shame they never actually found the guy....

Dog (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23218924)

Get a dog. The TCO may be higher than the camera, but the deterrence factor is way higher (and it's better to not be broken into at all, than have footage of your breakins afterwards).

Re:Dog (5, Funny)

ross.w (87751) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219028)

a flock of geese FTW Best burglar alarm evar, and no-one will mess with a flock of angry geese defending their territory. really.

Re:Dog (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23219360)

Or you can replace the geese with seagulls. It'll make them run. Run so far away.

Re:Dog (1)

innerweb (721995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219464)

I thought that was a Sock of Fleagulls.


Good images are important (5, Interesting)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#23218934)

I sat on a grand jury a couple years ago. (Not an investigatory one; we issued general felony indictments. The county I live in does things a little oddly -- they have a pair of standing grand juries, each of which meets once a month to hear potential indictments. You're on the jury for a year, and hear a couple dozen cases each day, so I saw a bunch. All felony indictments go through one of the two.)

The most common case for small time burglary was that there would be a set of crimes that the police were convinced were related, and then finally the thief would hit some place that had video cameras that were placed well enough to produce a usable image -- at which point, odds were they had already had dealings with that person, and the case got fairly easy. So usually they would present it to us as an indictment for just the one crime, but explain that the investigation was being treated as part of a group.

So if you want the guy caught, there's really no substitute for good video surveillance. Sure, plenty of cases were based on things like the thief pawning stolen goods, but video was the most prevalent and easiest to work with.

GPL Monitoring Software (4, Informative)

JumboMessiah (316083) | more than 6 years ago | (#23218944)

ZoneMinder [] It has some really nice features.

Re:GPL Monitoring Software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23219072)

I'd second the recommendation of ZoneMinder. I've got 4 inexpensive ($60) cameras from Home Depot connected to a $100 surplus computer running ZoneMinder. The cameras are small and discretely positioned, and with 10 IR diodes, their night vision is effective to about 10 ft with about a 60 degree spread. Add in some X10 lights to turn on when motion's detected in isolated areas like back or side doors, and you've got an effective system on a budget.

That is just what he's looking for. (3, Informative)

twitter (104583) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219162)

Multiple cheap cameras are better than fewer fancy cameras. What you want is enough cameras to cover the area well enough to get that picture. Two cheap cameras will cover twice the area one expensive camera does all the time. Pan and tilt is useless unless you want to hire people to sit on it all day and even then you don't get as much coverage as three or four cameras would give you. You want to have one camera with a close up for each door to get face shots and a few wide angle cameras to record all the dirty deeds done. Five or six cameras should be more than enough for the average small business or home.

With Zone Minder you can scrape together a good system for a few hundred bucks. Good quality analog cameras are tiny and can be bought for about $40 each. Both BTTV and V4Linux are stable interfaces with lots of good hardware support. BTTV capture cards are cheap and accept analog inputs that give good enough resolution. All of this can be piped back to an old PC that has five or six PCI slots free. You can add more PCs as the size of your house or business increases. This is equivalent to the professional systems you see in grocery stores but less hackable because you can run it on a good OS like GNU/Linux.

surveillance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23218950)

I work in the security field, to get a good image, you will need to pay a large chunk of money. Standard ($400) cameras aren't going to give you a face that can do much for you. If the person gets close enough to the camera, you can see a face, but then the camera will be mounted way to low, or you can zoom it in far but won't get a large area.

Re:surveillance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23219450)

yes, paying more certainly does change the mount angle of the camera..

Save your money (1)

Canosoup (1153521) | more than 6 years ago | (#23218960)

Get a pit bull and a gun.

Re:Save your money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23218992)

Why not spend your money on theft insurance?

Re:Save your money (5, Funny)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219108)

Get a pit bull and a gun.

That solution won't save money. Do you have any idea how much it costs to train a dog to safely and effectively handle a firearm?

Re:Save your money (1)

Gazzonyx (982402) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219356)

Get a pit bull and a gun.

That solution won't save money. Do you have any idea how much it costs to train a dog to safely and effectively handle a firearm?

Ah, but you can lower the total cost if you multitask and do them both at the same time! ;)

Re:Save your money (1)

Gazzonyx (982402) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219376)

Disregard that last not-so-witty comment. I read your post as "train a dog and learn to use a gun safely and effectively", or something to that effect. I need to cut back on the caffeine.

Old Macs (1)

G4Cube (863788) | more than 6 years ago | (#23218962)

A couple of iSights for $300 an Apple Cube, $350 24 hr of 12 frame a sec video for $650.

Re:Old Macs (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219014)

isights go for $300-500 now, they used to retail for $150. Really good camera tho. Beats the stuffing out of any of the cameras built into the new macs now. I kept mine when I got a macbook pro.

$40 "crittercam" type USB cameras, with a $10 piece of shareware make them work just the same as firewire cameras. Save a lot of money that way and don't lose a lot of video quality. Not nearly as good as an original isight in low light conditions, they can be used for night vision. (tho most webcams are sensitive to IR light so if you can provide that, you have the same thing)

There are several companies making wireless security cameras, just provide them power and they transmit back to the receiving display. Totally wipes out nearby wireless internet unfortunately, it just sprays 2.4 ghz in a really bad way, much worse than a 2.4 spread spectrum phone.

Re:Old Macs (3, Funny)

Director of Acronyms (232303) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219194)

Catching your neighbour screwing your wife : Priceless

Re:Old Macs (1)

986151 (986151) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219256)

Catching your neighbour screwing your wife : Priceless
or £5/month online.

easy and cheap solution (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23218972)

Tell the local FBI office you're thinking of opening a Taliban mosque and they'll keep 24/7 high-res real-time video with CD quality audio of your entire property with an emphasis on identifying anyone coming or going. Then if anything happens they'll already have the suspect's name, address and phone number on record. Just ask the police to get the info from the FBI.

Re:easy and cheap solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23219078)

We of the FBI are not your personal army.

Re:easy and cheap solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23219236)


Not so easy and very bad. (2, Informative)

twitter (104583) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219282)

The problem with domestic spying is that it will only be used against you. The FBI does not involve itself in cases involving a large amount of loss (either $50,000 or $500,000 I can't remember right now). The other problem is that they won't tell you they are taking the pictures in the first place until they get a search warrant and turn your life upside down. You don't want to be on a watch list and you should be outraged that your government is once again infiltrating and monitoring religious groups.

Re:Not so easy and very bad. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23219418)

"Religious" groups which incite hatred and violence as core doctrine, leaving peace and goodwill to the fringe movements?

Vivotek (1)

rweaving (833605) | more than 6 years ago | (#23218982)

Vivotek makes some nice and affordable network cameras, starting at around $180 ea, and they come with recording software for Windoze, but a Linux SDK is available under NDA. []

Any digital still cam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23218984)

Most digital still cameras have a remote shoot facility. Buy a $100 5Mpixel camera, connect it to a PC and use it to snap high res pictures with flash. Trigger it off a sensor or run the camera in video mode with motion detection. Once the picture has been snapped email if off site to a gmail account. By the time the thief figures out what the flash was the picture will be safe on the other side of the world.

Forget the camera... (1)

Denagoth (582705) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219036)

...get a big dog and some special insurance from Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson.

Seriously, get a dog (5, Insightful)

greyhueofdoubt (1159527) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219040)

You need to get yourself a dog. It doesn't have to be big or scary looking- a small, yappy-type dog will do just fine. Unless you advertise the presence of valuable goods inside your house, a burglar will not break into your house if it is occupied. I think you'll find that most burglars will go for the lowest-hanging fruit, which will be your neighbor's house (unless they also have a dog, in which case the next house over is the low fruit). They want to get in, grab the stuff that is easiest to make off with and pawn, and then get out. I doubt you have any state secrets or anything like that in your house; this is a simple cost/benefit analysis for you and the burglars.

Another thing to look into is a neighborhood watch program. Of course, if you live in a neighborhood like mine that might not be a viable option. In that case, you need to get yourself a dog and a steel-core door. Skip the expensive cameras. Are they really going to save you money? Or is this a vindictive side of you, the side that might put a "Trespassers will be shot. Survivors will be shot twice" sign on your fence?


Re:Seriously, get a dog (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23219178)

Not true. Ever watched the show It Takes a Thief? They broke into so many people's homes [with permission] with 'family dogs.' The animals were so use to people, they just wagged their tail after being pet, or he'd quickly find them a treat in the fridge.

Re:Seriously, get a dog (1)

mckinnsb (984522) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219406)

A real "guard dog" is also expensive. You can get dogs that will be deterrents to invaders - Rottweilers and Pit Bulls are both pretty effective - but that effectiveness stops if the thief understands that these animals aren't a threat if he behaves correctly.

There is however, a way to train a dog so that it will not be a pushover, and will act as a very real threat to any thief, or as the case may be, anyone who isn't the owner. This training is commonly known as aggression training - its the kind of training that police dogs go through, and its actually available to the public with the proper paperwork. This type of training will make a dog "used" to some humans, but aggressive towards others when that human is absent. There are advantages to having a dog with this kind of training, but it is expensive, and most dog breeders/trainers (certified ones) will only train a dog this way if they have certification - ie, the dog has to come from other dogs that have received this training and have responded well to it. You also have to consider the fact that this training is expensive, a purebred "guard dog" of this nature is particularly expensive , and include any possible insurance cost increases or complete denial of coverage. It might be an animal, but after this training its a living weapon. The cost of one dog trained in this manner could easily reach - with only the cost of purchasing and training the dog - over three to four thousand dollars.

I'd stick with the cameras, from a TCO standpoint.

However, Rottweilers in particular make good pets if you are kind to them, and you don't have to give them aggression training to scare most people away. I have two, and while someone who entered my house with the calm of a surgeon and a piece of bacon might get past them, they do scare the pants off of every delivery person that approaches my house. They are also really great dogs.

But, as a previous poster stated "The thief will probably go after the lowest hanging fruit". A big dog - or any dog for that matter - will still raise that fruit up a notch.

One thing that I think people do that is particularly stupid is put their expensive electronics in *full view* of a window. Electronics are among the most easily resold stolen item, because their worth is directly related to their functionality and often they are pretty easy to transport and get rid of - everyone wants a new TV.

Re:Seriously, get a dog (1)

ckthorp (1255134) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219186)

Unfortunately the TCO of a dog is worse than the cameras. There are adoption fees, vet bills, immunizations, food, waste cleanup, toys, leashes, etc. Then, at EOL, you have a number of vet trips bunched together and, to top it off, cremation fees. I love my pets, but I'd never consider them a cost-effective security system. I'd go for cameras before a dog for this purpose.

Re:Seriously, get a dog (1)

Idiot with a gun (1081749) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219220)

Or you could label yourself as a poor odd philosopher with a "All Prosecutors will be Transgressicuted" sign.

Re:Seriously, get a dog (1)

zamboni1138 (308944) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219298)

You need to watch the TV show 'It Takes a Thief' (Discovery Channel, 2PM EDT Monday-Friday). Time and again I see dogs portrayed by their owners as the ultimate security device, only to have them rendered 100% ineffective within 15 to 30 seconds after John enters the target house and isolates the dog into a room not used by the thief. I even saw him steal a dog once. Dogs, unless trained to absolutely kill anything that enters the house (including you) are not an effective deterrent, period. And if, unlike John, I really was breaking into your home, I could just as easily kill/beat-to-death the dog just as quickly as he isolates them.

Security systems with the key left on top of the box, unlocked back-yard/second-story doors, safes that only weigh 120 pounds, or have a hand-truck/dolly right next to them, all of these are the real-life scenarios played out every day.

The most effective anti-theft device I have seen recently is a nosey neighbor who identified a robbery was taking place and took the keys from John's car while he was in the house. John stole the BMW from the garage and had to abandon all of his loot that he had been stacking up in his getaway car.

The cost of good security... (2, Insightful)

Pollux (102520) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219046)

"Is paying two to three thousand dollars simply unavoidable if I want to monitor my front and back yards?"


What do you really want to capture? A video feed of something that looks like it came from an Atari video game, or an actual image of a face that police can use to track the perpetrator? And would you really trust a couple-hundred dollar camera to stand up to outdoor conditions? Security cameras are expensive because the companies that offer them know that clients want SECURITY. And security costs money.

I wouldn't pay for cameras that expensive, because the value of the property that I have in my apartment doesn't justify the cost. But if you have property that you want to protect, you'll have to determine for yourself whether the cost of the cameras is worth the cost of protecting your property.

An old Camcorder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23219076)

I've used an old camcorder as a web cam before. Excellent image quality!, auto focus, works ok in low light. Used "Dazzle" to hook up my PC to the old RCA plugs on the camcorder. You can find "Dazzle" products most anywhere. If you have an old camcorder laying around, or a pawn shop nearby, you might give it a try. Building a weatherproof box to put it in might be the hardest part.

Advice from law enforcement (5, Insightful)

JoeShmoe (90109) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219080)

Actually, quality isn't the issue. Angle is.

What you need to do is ensure that you capture a face shot as close to eye-level as possible, without having the camera obstructed by people walking by.

The police and FBI don't like to talk about it, but there is a program where if they input a digital photo of someone, even a poor quality one, the computer will compare it against the database of digital photos taken by the Department of Motor Vehicles and spit out the six closest matches.

These system rely on facial characteristics like eye-nose-mouth ratio, hairlines, etc so as long as the computer can accurately calculate the centers of these areas, it works.

But when cameras are mounted up on the roof or in a corner as is typical, they are worthless unless the suspect looks right at them.

Also, you want to think about having a camera just for vehicle traffic on your street or culdesac. A license plate is going to be your best method for apprehension. Sure, the car may be stolen, but if it is recovered then it can lead to your property. And if it happens to be a crime of impulse, you will have a suspect.

If you were really clever, you could find some way to rig a standard digital camera with a flash similar to a red-light camera. This would be your most inexpensive option but also a dead give-away and not recommended for busy roads. Instead, find the least expensive camera that offers changeable lenses, and then focus them on a spot on the street that you know vehicles must drive through. Add some inexpensive infrared lighting and you should be able to playback a log of all vehicles (suspects and potential witnesses) when there is an incident.

I think having more inexpensive cameras with decent quality will have a greater chance of success than a couple high-quality ones. Also, don't overlook physical security sensors. Infrared beams and even motion sensors are the best way to deter the crime, instead of relying on catching the criminal.

I have been on the victim side of countless incidents in my profession and, frankly, you won't get the time of day from law enforcement. If a light turns on, or a camera flashes as someone approaches your vehicle...they will move on. And don't forget if you are worried about your vehicle and not just what's in it...pick up a used Sprint/Nextel phone on eBay and split off power from your car's 12V plug. Hide the phone inside the dash somewhere on continuously. Get the least expensive plan, or just write down the IMEI so that you can later activate the phone by calling Sprint. If the car does get stolen, activate service and add-on the GPS tracking features.

Cheapest Lojack you will find.

Good luck.


How about home owners insurance? (1)

nolife (233813) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219084)

I know you stated you goal is good quality footage to catch a thief but is that really your ultimate goal? I believe preventing theft or to limit the loss from theft would be a better goal.

Take the standard precautions everyone else takes and get home owners/renters insurance from a reputable company.

A camera shot of the perp MIGHT help catch him eventually but what are the chances that your stolen stuff is going to be found and in returnable condition after that?
The odds do not seem to justify the cost and complexity of above average high quality video surveillance to me.

Re:How about home owners insurance? (1)

Kamokazi (1080091) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219400)

Rental insurance is very cheap...I pay $190 per year for $45k of coverage.

Cheap cameras (1)

davmoo (63521) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219096)

I have a pair of AirLink101 AIC-250 wired network cameras monitoring my driveway/garage area and my barn area (I live in the sticks). I've been pleased enough that I intend to acquire two more of them. Normal price is in the $80 range, but Fry's runs them as cheap as $49 at times.

Their performance in almost darkness sucks, but that's going to be true of almost any camera unless you spend big dollars. Their performance from pre-dawn to post-dusk, however, has been phenomenal for such a cheap camera. However, on the opposite side of the coin, if the perps are very far from the camera, you are not going to get facial-recognition quality from them.

Mine sit in a second-story window, so by the time someone would break in and mess with them or put a ladder up to the side of the house to spray paint the window, their photo would already be recorded (and saved off-site):-)

I'd post a link for you to see them in action, but I don't want to see my cameras or home network burst in to flames from being slashdotted.

I've been using AirLink's own software, which is somewhat limited. But after seeing the link in another reply here, I'm going to go check out ZoneMinder for myself.

Re:Cheap cameras (1)

RGRistroph (86936) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219316)

I have set up these cameras with zoneminder. It worked. My opinion of the cameras is that they aren't really of sufficient resolution. It might be ok for indoor use, where the lighting would be more constant and the camera would be much closer to the target, for example a server room.

NSLU2 + Any Camera + Unslung + gPhoto == fun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23219106)

You should check out what you can do with an NSLU2. It's an extremely fun platform to geek out with.

1) Get yourself a NSLU2

2) Install Unslung on it.

3) Get gPhoto.

4) Here's a walkthrough of how to make it all work.

Good Luck! (4, Interesting)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219114)

My wife's bicycle was stolen at her work (directly across the street from the police station, with regular police officer foot-traffic in the building). We had fancy cameras and a close-up of the guy's face within an hour of the theft.

Did it help anything? No...

The cameras were also in plain sight, and he was especially brazen in how he went about it all.

Technology won't solve the problem.

Step 1) Get used camera 2) download this software (5, Informative)

Bananatree3 (872975) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219118)

Here is some good software [] for turning many consumer cameras into a computer controlled camera.

Steps: 1)Go through the list of cameras on the above site, and select one that has the specs you want (good resolution, zoom, etc.)

2)Check eBay or find a used one.

3)setup software and install camera where you want it.

4)Enjoy cheap but hi-res image security.

Many of the cameras on the list above go for less than $100 in good used condition, and offer many megapixels and good optical resolution. Many of them also have other features like low light mode, or other things that can be controlled by computer software. Good luck!

Do it cheaply (3, Interesting)

Yossarian45793 (617611) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219120)

You can do it cheaply, but don't expect to get any amazing images. I have 4 cameras outside my house recording full motion video 24x7. I spent only about $800 on the hardware ($125 per camera, $50 per video capture board, and $25 for coax cable). I record at 640x480x30fps and I can store about 3.5 days worth of video on an old 120 GB hard drive. I caught a kid breaking into my car at night, but there was no way to identify him, and police didn't want to pursue the case because he only took a few dollars out of my change tray. Even if his face had been clearer on the video I still doubt they would have done anything unless I also gave them a name and address. I believe the police view petty theft under a few thousand dollars as an issue for your insurance. Your best bet is to install motion sensing lights outside your house. They're a lot cheaper than cameras and they have better deterrent value. If you still want cameras, get the lights too because they're much more effective than infrared-LED-based night vision, which have very limitted range. After having these cameras running for more than a year the thing I use them most for is checking whether the UPS man left a package on my front steps.

U need some help from S&W (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23219122)

There is a simple four step solution.

1) Purchase a Smith and Wesson 500. The big one, not the 4" or the 6". Join the 1852 Club while
you are at it. Ask for stickers.

2) If you have the cash, purchase another (you have one already right?) large cal rifle. The AnzioIronworks .50 cal or the 20mm is a nice choice.

3) Place stickers announcing the fact that you own such artillery on your windows. You will need a Class 3 for the 20mm so the ATF will give you a sticker when you get that.

4) Whenever you have time, clean all of your firearms on your front porch/steps/whatever in plain sight of anyone walking/driving/running down the sidewalk/road. Do this naked, wearing only a shower cap, one slipper (pink bunny is nice) and a leather belt around your neck. Have an axe handy and in plain sight.

No one, and I mean no one will ever mess with your stuff.

Good luck with that (1)

ArchieBunker (132337) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219130)

You do realize the cops are going to do the absolute minimum possible even with video evidence? They will come out, maybe watch your tape and file some papers and thats about it. Don't expect CSI to come out and swab for saliva or prints.

Don't Live in a Crappy Neighborhood? (2, Funny)

morari (1080535) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219132)

Or better yet, don't live in the city at all! Don't park on the street, use your driveway or garage. People that park on the street simply take up space on the street and often essentially turn it into one lane for those of us who are driving. Also, buy a nice big handgun and wear it strapped under your shoulder while out cutting the grass and such. Make it known, because no one is going to assess the risk factor in that and still proceed with robbing you.

From a Professional Security Installer.... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23219148)

Part of the issue you will face is that yes, a good security camera will cost several hundred dollars each.... that said, professional systems are not particularly difficult to install yourself.

Couple tips:

1) Avoid network cameras, the Cat-5 medium is not as noise free as other methods, and the circuitry involved to convert it to a digital/network capable camera adds cost... I recommend using RG-59 grade coaxial cable and any 18guage-2conductor wire for power. Get a moderate DVR, or better yet use one of the PCI-card kits and an old PC to save more. 4 Camera cards can be had for around $160.

2) Consider the benefits of good nightvision. Examine cameras with IR LED's, they will provide some of the better night-vision capabilities, however viewing range is limited outside the IR's angle. That said, Speco sells a line of cameras called the "Intensifier" that has some of the best night vision I've seen. We use many of these in some very high-profile homes (let's just say as far as world's wealthiest goes, we're in the top 10). The Chameleon indoor/outdoor model can be had for under $400 each.

3)It's not about quantity vs quality, it's about paths and coverage. Our general camera strategy is to have a couple cameras for general coverage, and a couple cameras in major pathways, close-up, for good ID. So you know who it was, and what they did.

Video Surveillence Options (1)

Mr.Ziggy (536666) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219204)

I've been working on a couple of video projects and have gotten input from the local police as well. Here's what I can tell you:

There are two types of surveillance: Monitored and unmonitored. You can get away with lower quality if you have someone monitoring the cameras live (because you can go out and deal with the problem). You need higher quality if you're unmonitored.

In your case, you need to record with motion detection (less HD space, and it's easier to watch later). And you need high enough quality to have a clear face shot if you want to be able to follow up with law enforcement/neighbors to try and identify a suspect.

There's really no way around spending $500-1000 per camera if you want real quality. Otherwise, you'll end up grainy video that neither you nor the police will have any use for. For petty theft/vandalism, the police will take your video 'as-is'. Many larger departments have methods of enhancing the video, but that's only done in more serious murder/felony type cases.

Here's what we're using and what we've tried:

Cameras: Axis Power over Ethernet cameras. You NEED PoE (unless you're doing something goofy with cheap USB cameras). You'll save time, money, and hassles with PoE because the ethernet cabling is easy and familiar. I've liked the nicer Panasonic cameras.

Switches: We're using Netgear PoE switches, and often they have decent rebates. I have maybe 12 PoE devices attached to the 24-port PoE switch now.

Software: Axis comes with FREE software for their camera, but the downfall is the free license only covers ONE camera. Just because you buy two cameras doesn't mean you can record two devices on one computer. I supposed you could do some kind of VM thing to get around it. Or you could have your system just use FTP to get the images off the camera...

We're using ONSSI's software now. Downside: .Net 2.0 based server software and viewer. Expensive Upside: Good documentation and works.

Question: (1)

WiglyWorm (1139035) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219216)

Why do you need a megapixel security camera?

I've never seen a store front that had much more than vga resolution cameras, and police track down people who rob a store all the time. You can pick up a wireless vga resolution color camera with night vision [] for a couple hundred bucks from radio shack. Get a couple of those and a multi-input video capture card [] . Slap a couple large hard drives in to any halfway modern PC, and there you go.

Now just make sure you hide the PC so your evidence doesn't get stolen when your house is broken in to.

Will the police do anything? (1)

dr_dank (472072) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219240)

Even if you do manage to get a picture of someone in the act, I doubt that the police are going to put out an APB with the snapshot that your system took. At best, if you know who is doing this in your neighborhood, you can help build a case against them. If it isn't, they're not going to play CSI with the pics from your security system and will focus on violent crimes and/or revenue-producing law enforcement opportunities.

On the plus side, the presence of such a system could scare off the less motivated crooks. YMMV.

Chain of Custody (1)

Steauengeglase (512315) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219252)

First off I'm not a lawyer, but I was wondering the same thing a month or so ago. I asked around to a few cops and a friend who had been researching forensics. My big question was that it seemed to make more sense to keep any recording off site in case the thief though of stealing my PC, so should I? It seems that there was the question of the Cain of Custody. In the end it boiled down to the further away, the more work law enforcement has to do to get the evidence and the less likely they will ever bother looking into it. The general consensus was either to hide the machine that you are saving information on or just bolt the thing to the ground.

Use eBay Camcorders! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23219258)

You can pick up cheap "HD" camcorders off of ebay, they are usually 720p, but still work well. Then just run the video-out to a multichannel video capture card.

I am sure there is software out there, open source even, that will let you have a multichannel video security system, with recording, and motion detection etc...

This would be the cheapest way I can think of, unless you use a bunch of webcam's. :)

Use Motion for indoor webcam surveillance (2, Interesting)

kauos (1168299) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219272)

I used to use Motion [] . I had it setup for surveillance of my home office. It used just a plain USB webcam, and would only record when it detected movement. I managed to configure it to turn on when my screensaver turned on, and turn off when I logged back into the computer. If it detected movement, it would email the resulting video to a gmail account. Worked really well, except that it burnt out two Logitech Quickcam Pro 4000's (I don't think they like being left on for long periods of time). Haven't really found a good webcam for linux since so I never set it back up again (not that I looked that hard). If anybody has a recommendation for a good linux webcam that has a reasonably wide angle lens and decent low light response then please share.

Prevention is better than prosecution... (3, Interesting)

aXis100 (690904) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219274)

Forget the cameras. Put in an alarm system with lots of PIR's (I have them in every room that has valuables), and make the internal siren(s) loud enough to make your ears bleed. Same with the car - put a 120dB siren (or two) on the inside.

Unfortunately sirens and strobes on the outside get ignored by the general public, and the cops dont care about the petty crime as much as you would like. When the internal sirens are so loud you nearly vomit, the crooks will leave prematurely and unsuccessful.

I'm familiar with this dilemma (1)

adric22 (413850) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219276)

I went through the same dilemma a year ago.

First of all, I should point out something. I've been told by numerous people that the police are not interested in your video footage unless somebody was killed or kidnapped. That is, unless you have a license plate, or you personally recognize the person. That is because there is no way to identify the people short of putting it on CNN.

Eventually I settled on analog security cameras. I discovered that if you are dealing with standard-def cameras, a good analog camera can produce the same or better image than an Axis only at a quarter of the cost. Now, if you want those license plate numbers, you'll need megapixel resolution and a hefty server. Currently, I have a small 1.0 Ghz computer in the closet with an analog capture board recording 3 cameras at 640x480. My total cost was about $250. it has worked flawlessly for a year now.

The Axis 207MW is nowhere near $1,000 (1)

phaln (579585) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219286)

An Axis 207MW (megapixel camera) can be had on eBay for less than $350. I picked a used one up from there for about $290 back in February.

X-10 makes a cheap ready to plug and play solution (1)

BillandTed (657725) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219308)

Sure it's not great quality but you can by more and place them closer (and at eye level). Decent enough image to gain a conviction if thats what you're after. My setup ran me a couple hundred three or four years ago. Even have a of couple of night vision type solutions. As they are most often a wireless solution a tech savvy thief can jam them - but if they are that motivated you've got more serious issues... available on Ebay or direct from the distributor

Depends on what your definition of 'is' is. (1)

lateralus_1024 (583730) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219330)

My current solution is definitely a great value, however it is only if/once the sorority finds out that i will find out what 'cheap' really is.

How about a fake dog (4, Interesting)

EEPROMS (889169) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219336)

I was listening to a radio interview with a professional house theif. When the said thief was asked what was the best deterant the reply was "a small dog as they are next to impossible to catch or bribe". After hearing this news the mental gears started whirring and I created a fake YAPPING dog security system. Its very simple with a IR motion sensor on the back and front entrance hooked into a MP3 player and a small PC speaker system. The hard part was finding a good yapping dog recording until I asked someone at the park if I could record her dog barking and she was happy to oblige once I explained why. Another trick is to have multiple varying MP3 files and make sure the MP3 player is set to shuffle so it sounds more realistic.

The Camera (1)

PenGun (794213) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219364)

The software is free, "motion" for one, but the resolution costs. If you want license numbers you have to pony up the $s, unless you put a cheap cam right where the car will stop, about 8 feet away. Otherwise you need good cameras. I have never found the need but I live in the country where we kind of know everyone.

How about insurance? (3, Insightful)

aiken_d (127097) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219402)

I spend $150/year to insure $30k worth of electronics from theft. Are you really going to find a better cost/benefit solution?

Still pix (1)

markdavis (642305) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219426)

I know what you mean. I would rather have a 3 or 4 MP image, 1 frame per second, than 30 FPS of crap. I am not sure why nobody has made a network enabled "still" camera yet with built in motion detection. I would think there would be a good market for it.

My dream device would be a 4 MP camera with very good low-light, built in motion detection, web control, weather resistant, POE (injector included), and the ability to scp the pictures (push) to any machine, 1 FPS, for under $300 or so. It should be possible now.

Oh well, I will keep dreaming!

Inspiration from Half-Life (1)

Adam Schumacher (267) | more than 6 years ago | (#23219438)

Ever since playing through Half-Life 2, I've wanted to implement the automatic security cameras they have in the game.

The idea is to set up a pan & tilt camara mount, with a high-quality flash camera co-axial with a low-light/IR webcam. The webcam is plugged into motion/feature recognition software, and controls the pan/tilt, keeping the largest moving object in the middle of the frame. Once a certain threshold for size/movement is reached, a buzzer and red light activate, and the camera takes 3 or 4 flash pictures in rapid succession.

Anyone who's played HL2 can attest to the strong sense of Big Brother that these cameras evoke. Not to mention the fact that it would produce superior images, as it would wait until the target is sufficiently large in the frame, and the light/buzzer should cause the target to reflexively look towards the camera to investigate.

Thoughts? It's not so much a practical solution to the original stated problem, but maybe a fun project for someone with more mechanical skill and free time than I have...

Maybe you should move... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23219462)

Maybe you should move to somewhere there is less crime. Given that you've chosen to live in a high crime area, it's likely that you did so because it was cheaper and probably don't have anything of value to protect.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?