Why video door­bells are win­ning over res­i­dents— and po­lice

The Beaufort Gazette (Sunday) - - Real Estate & Homes - BY LAURA DAILY

On her birth­day, Nancy Tray­lor of Rich­mond, Va. , re­ceived an un­wel­come sur­prise. The real es­tate agent and her hus­band were cel­e­brat­ing near the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, about 90 min­utes from home, when she checked her cell­phone and saw video of some­one on her front porch steal- ing a pack­age. The un­ex­pected de­liv­ery turned out to be a birth­day gift sent by a friend: a valu­able Mark and Gra­ham purse.

Porch pi­rates. Lawn loot­ers. Back­yard ban­dits. What­ever you call them, th­ese crim­i­nals are brazen and op­por­tunis­tic, boost­ing in­ter­est in “video door­bells” from com­pa­nies such as Ring, Nest, Greet, Re­moBell and iseeBell. Tray­lor cred­its hers for aid­ing po­lice in nab­bing the thief.

When Jamie Simi­noff in­vented what is now the Ring door­bell in 2012, he could hardly an­tic­i­pate that, six years later, con­sumer spend­ing on “smart” door­bell cam­eras would top $530 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to Strat­egy An­a­lyt­ics. The market re­searcher fore­casts that more than 3.4 mil­lion video door­bells will be sold this year, with the United States ac­count­ing for the ma­jor­ity of sales.

At their most ba­sic, smart door- bells stream real-time video to your smart­phone, tablet or desk­top, show­ing you who is at your doorstep and al­low­ing you to speak with them. Throw in mo­tion de­tec­tion, cloud video stor­age, flood­lights and sirens, and you are “al­ways home no mat­ter where you are,” Simi­noff said.

Af­ter some­one broke into his house while he was on the road,

Steve Lud­wig of Day­tona Beach, Fla., re­searched home-se­cu­rity op­tions. Concerned about the cost of a tra­di­tional whole­house sys­tem, he in­stead in­stalled a Ring video door­bell and flood­light cam­eras. Six days later, while trav­el­ing again, Lud­wig re­ceived an alert on his phone that some­one was at his front door.

“I could see a truck pull in the drive­way. This guy dressed as an air con­di­tioner re­pair­man walks to my back­yard,” he said. “I switched to the back cam­era and watched him peer in the win­dows and rat­tle the back­door han­dle. So I turned on the au­dio fea­ture and yelled, ‘Hey dude, get the [ex­ple­tive] out of my yard — the cops are on the way.’ He fled to his truck and drove off.”

Within min­utes, Lud­wig was shar­ing images of the sus­pect and his ve­hi­cle with the Vo­lu­sia County Sher­iff’s Of­fice. Less than 90 min­utes later, a deputy spot­ted the truck and pulled it over, later ar­rest­ing the per­pe­tra­tor on sev­eral ac­tive war­rants. He re­mains in jail, await­ing trial.

“The cost of a home­se­cu­rity sys­tem de­terred me for years, but I’m tech­savvy enough to use an app on my smart­phone,” Lud­wig said. “If I had a video door­bell the first time I was robbed, I’m 100 per­cent sure the po­lice would have caught them, too.”

Al­though peace of mind and safer neigh­bor­hoods may be the sell­ing points for video door­bells, af­ford­abil­ity is key. Mod­els start at $99. For in­stance, Ring charges $3 a month or $30 a year to store videos in the cloud for up to 60 days. Nest runs $10 per month for 24/7 record­ing and 10-day video his­tory. Lud­wig es­ti­mates he spent $540 to fully equip his home and pays $10 per month for a pro­fes­sion­ally mon­i­tored se­cu­rity sys­tem.

Many law en­force­ment agen­cies have be­come fans of video door­bells, so much so, that some de­part­ments of­fer pro­grams in which res­i­dents can reg­is­ter their home video cam­eras.

“If some­thing hap­pens in your area, we will con­tact you and ask you to look at the video on a spe­cific date,” said Matthew Lee, a crime an­a­lyst for the Long­mont, Col., Pub­lic Safety Depart­ment. “Then, if you spot some­thing, you send us the clip so we can try and iden­tify the sus­pect or ve­hi­cle.”

As for Tray­lor, upon her re­turn, she called the Rich­mond Po­lice Depart­ment and emailed the video to Det. Steve Rawl­ings. Then she posted the video to Face­book and pa­pered her neigh­bor­hood with the thief’s pic­ture on fliers.

Three days later, some­one out­side a nearby church spot­ted the man and called Tray­lor, who called Rawl­ings. The man was ar­rested and is serv­ing a two-year jail sen­tence.

Do video door­bell cam­eras de­ter crime? The jury is still out.

“Cam­eras or not, crime is go­ing to hap­pen,” Rawl­ings said. “But, a cam­era sys­tem gives us a bet­ter de­scrip­tion to iden­tify some­one than just can­vass­ing a neigh­bor­hood for wit­nesses. In this case, we were able to iden­tify the sus­pect 100 per­cent be­cause he was known to law en­force­ment and the video was of such high qual­ity.”

The Wash­ing­ton Post

Strat­egy An­a­lyt­ics fore­casts that more than 3.4 mil­lion video door­bells, such as this one from Ring, will be sold this year.

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