How Police Might Use Your Home Security System to Solve a Crime

Written by | Updated January 6, 2017

We applaud the law enforcement officers of Hinsdale, Chicago for their creative crime solving tactics. The Hinsdale Police Department is considering implementing an innovative program that identifies homes which have surveillance cameras, noting that the clues captured by the cameras may be helpful in tracking down perpetrators and solving crime.

There’s no telling if this voluntary program will ever get off the ground, but it certainly raises the question, “how can law enforcement use home security systems to solve crimes?” We decided to explore a few ways they might do so.

1. To Catch a Burglar or Another Bad Guy in the Act

Thanks to advances in technology, home security systems are much more sophisticated than they used to be, and that could help catch a burglar red-handed. Here’s how: Many home security cameras have the ability to take a picture the moment motion is detected. The image is sent via text message to the homeowner’s cell phone. If she doesn’t recognize the person, she alerts the police to suspicious activity.

The key benefit of using home surveillance in this way is it tips off police immediately, which means there’s a better chance the bad guy will still be on the property or in the neighborhood when police arrive. In addition to alerting police to a suspicious person, a home security camera could very well catch a burglar in the act. Best yet, even if the burglar realizes he’s being taped and attempts to steal or destroy the camera, his efforts are fruitless. That’s because the video and images are stored online.

Burglaries aren’t the only crimes surveillance cameras might capture. Trespassing, vandalism, theft and destruction of property crimes could also be caught on tape.

2. To Gather Clues

Burglaries are notoriously difficult crimes to solve, making police thankful for the most ambiguous clues. That’s where a surveillance camera comes in handy. Even if the burglar has concealed his or her face, the footage from a home surveillance camera offers important intelligence about the criminal’s sex, height, race, weight and identifying features such as tattoos. It also lets police know whether they are working alone, or with a partner or group.

Just a few months ago, a surveillance camera filmed a burglar scouring a home for two minutes, as the victim watched the episode using his cell phone’s mobile app. The victim immediately called the police, who were able to use the surveillance footage to get a good physical description of the burglar and his direction of travel from the scene.

Clues like these could help police narrow down their list of suspects, or even provide them with the evidence to make an arrest.

3. To Help Deter Crime

Word spreads fast on the street, and in this case that’s a good thing. Once the news gets out that police know which homes have surveillance cameras and that they’re using camera footage to put criminals behind bars, there’s a good chance burglars will move on to another neighborhood.

Although the deterrent value of your home security surveillance camera is difficult to gauge, there’s little doubt it will make a criminal think twice. In fact, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte interviewed 400 convicted offenders and found that 83 percent of them took steps to find out if a home had a security system before they broke in. If a surveillance camera or other security device was discovered, the burglary was thwarted. When several homes in a neighborhood are outfitted with security cameras, the deterrent effect could prove to be quite powerful.

The relationship between law enforcement and video surveillance technology is growing. And although your home security surveillance camera was designed to help protect your possessions and loved ones, but it may also be helpful to police in solving or reducing crime in your neighborhood. If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of an affordable home security system, start here.

Written by Alexia Chianis

Wanderlust junky and mom of two, Alexia is a former police officer and U.S. Army Captain who draws on her experiences to write about a myriad of safety topics. Learn more

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