In my last blog, I scratched the surface of how smart appliances can help in police investigations. One appliance I mentioned stands out as being particularly useful to law enforcement: the video doorbell. It’s commonplace to see signs warning about the use of security cameras in commercial spaces, but the use of household security cameras has been on an upwards trend in recent years. Consumers are increasingly choosing to invest in video doorbells, with Amazon’s Ring doorbell alone selling more than 1.4 million units in 2020. It is estimated that in the same year, 16% of all American homes were using video doorbells. It’s easy to see the appeal and the convenience since the integrated camera and intercom systems allow you to monitor and communicate with visitors—even when you’re not home to answer. Consumers aren’t the only ones who can see some of the obvious advantages. Police have also shown an increased interest in how video doorbells can assist in investigations and crime prevention, even working with companies to offer free or discounted video doorbells in some neighborhoods.
Perhaps the most obvious criminal offense that a video doorbell might catch is theft. Specifically package theft, which has been on the rise in many states. Since people are shopping online more, it is important to be able to monitor your shipments from the warehouse to your doorstep. Having a video doorbell can help not only alert you when your package arrives, but it can stand out as a way to keep thieves away. Having a visible camera outside your home might be enough to deter a would-be thief once they see that they’re being recorded. It’s not a guarantee since there are workarounds (a simple face covering and a hood might make it difficult to identify a stranger), but even if a package is stolen the footage can still be used in a follow-up police investigation. This can also apply to more serious forms of theft, like cases of breaking & entering and home burglary.
Theft is not the only crime that video doorbells can assist in solving. I mentioned in my last blog that video doorbell footage recently helped police locate an escaped convict at large, but there are several other high-profile cases that have used video doorbell footage as evidence. In the UK, a man was convicted of manslaughter after video footage from a doorbell recorded the fatal attack. In another murder case, security footage from a doorbell was used as supporting evidence. While the murder was not caught on camera, the perpetrator was recorded actively threatening the victim at their home days prior to the attack. Video that can show the exact moment of a crime is possibly the ideal evidence an officer could ask for but using video to build and support a case can be just as important to providing closure to a victim and their families.
If you’re thinking about getting a video doorbell yourself, it may prove to be a great tool in keeping your home secure. Don’t forget, though, that it’s important to be aware of potential cybersecurity risks and even unwanted involvement in criminal cases—if the police suspect you may have footage of a crime on your device, they can make emergency requests to access your device. As always, make sure you stay informed and up-to-date about any tech you choose to keep in your home.