Putting a Pinch on Porch Pirates
Doorbell cameras, security systems help homeowners and police identify suspects
The first patent for a home security system was filed in 1966 by a nurse from Queens, New York.
Marie Van Britton Brown’s system, developed with the help of her electronics technician husband, Albert, monitored the front door through a camera linked to a television. A two-way intercom allowed her to speak with the person at the door, and a remote-control option enabled her to control the door lock from a safe distance.
From that initial patent, the global home security market has exploded, and sales are expected to grow from $2.14 billion in 2018 to $4.37 billion by 2022, according to a news release from The Business Research Co.
Products ranging from do-it-yourself systems to traditional companies such as ADT, Ring, SimpliSafe, Nest, LifeShield and more provide people with the necessary components to protect their homes.
So how does this technology help residents and police catch a porch pirate?
To begin with, home security systems assist law enforcement in identifying suspects in cases where packages are stolen. Robert Merritt, public information officer for the Lansing Police Department, said the department’s investigation team has used and continues to use video captured by surveillance cameras and doorbell cameras.
Homeowners in one case posted video on social media prior to contacting Lansing police, sharing the video on the Ring Neighbors app.
“The suspects were identified as a result of this process. Lansing Police Department was contacted and began the investigation,” Merritt explained. “The detective team has completed the investigation. The detailed reports have been submitted to the Ingham County prosecutor’s office to review and possibly issue criminal charges.”
Merritt said the department not only encourages the use of home security cameras, a few years ago it began a program called Security Camera Registry and Mapping, or SCRAM, which can be accessed at lansingmi.gov/1640/What-is-SCRAM. The program informs the department of which residences or businesses have functioning cameras. It does not give authorities access to the cameras or captured video.
The first step people who are victims of porch pirates should always take is calling law enforcement.
“Lansing Police Department encourages citizens to file a report the minute they become a victim. The sooner the police are aware of the crime, the faster the case can be solved,” Merritt said.
Bob Tucker, a spokesman for ADT, said the security monitoring company responds to 15 million alarms nationwide every year, a majority of which are false alarms.
ADT has six centers nationwide to alert homeowners or businesses an alarm is sounding. If it’s a burglary alarm, the monitoring system first calls the home phone. If there is no answer, the call goes to the cellphone number.
“If we get a fire alarm, we call once; and if there is no answer, we immediately call 911,” Tucker said, noting that the same procedure goes for carbon monoxide alarms.
Tucker said ADT started offering residential security systems 40 years ago, and it has grown as technology has developed and mass marketing has brought the price down.
“It used to be so darned expensive for a person to have (a residential security system),” Tucker explained. “Today, installation will run $100 or so, and $40 to $60 a month for monitoring. The main thing has been the technology, which has made it more affordable.”
Tucker said many customers have told him the video from their surveillance cameras has resulted in arrests when the homeowner either shared the video with the police or local television station.
He also said a security company sign in front of a house causes porch pirates to think twice about stealing a package.
“Bad guys will keep on going if they are able to see there is a doorbell camera, and I know they will keep on going if they see an ADT yard sign,” Tucker said. “There have been studies when convicted burglars have been interviewed. They have said flat out if they see an ADT sign, they see there’s a system installed and they go to another house where there is no sign.”
For people who want an even more secure way to have their Amazon packages delivered, they can have them sent to an Amazon Hub Locker, which is a secure, self-service kiosk that allows people to pick up their package at a place and time convenient for them. When the package is delivered to the requested location, the recipient gets an email with a six-digit code and uses that code to access their locker.
There are 20 Amazon Hub Locker locations in the Greater Lansing area at Whole Foods, Rite-Aid and other locations. For a full listing go to amazon.com/gp/css/account/address/view.html.