Not too long ago, NBC News published this article suggesting that doorbell cameras aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. According to the article, some companies make bold claims about working with law enforcement agencies to deter crime and solve crime, “citing its own research that says an installation of its doorbell cameras reduces burglaries by more than 50 percent.” The article goes on to say that “after interviews with 40 law enforcement agencies in eight states...there is little concrete evidence to support the claim.”
Can Neighborhoods Use Technology to Solve Crime?
That article could have been written about any public safety technology. I mean, Flock Safety also builds crime-fighting technology and has agreements with hundreds of law enforcement agencies, which has shown to both deter crime and solve crime. Cobb County Police Department even reported reducing crime by over 60 percent, thanks in part to Flock Safety automatic license plate readers (ALPR). Yet still, correlating police recorded crime stats with ALPR technology proves difficult as written in this article by WIRED.
Stated differently, the authors of these articles didn’t argue against whether crime actually dropped, the authors merely argued it’s hard to prove how much the technology helped. Therein lies the rub.
The spirit behind articles like these, which you can find written about home security systems, gunshot detection devices, police body-worn cameras, and more, addresses a real concern: beware of a snake oil salesperson. They may be selling false hope, which may cause unintended harm.
But an underlying, more problematic premise comes through: don’t believe the claims of public safety technology because causality, aka 1:1 linear cause and effect, remains incredibly difficult to prove. These authors don’t claim technology doesn’t or can’t help - just that it’s hard to prove how much it helps.
I'm not asking you to accept that Flock Safety license plate readers or doorbell cameras or gunshot detection devices or any single technology is a one-stop shop, perfect solution that will solve all crime. I am asking you to review the different options you have, read the proof points, vet the statistics, and start with the premise that it’s possible to reduce, solve, and prevent crime in your community. If you start with an open mind and do the research, I think you'll agree that technology does help communities across the nation every single day. Here’s my recommendation for how you can consider stopping crime in your community.
It’s too easy to be a thief
According to the FBI, 7,000,000+ property crimes occur every year. And 80% to 87% of property crimes go unsolved. Yes, overall crime rates are trending downward and thankfully, they have been for the past several years. But if you are the victim of a property crime - if, say a porch pirate steals a package off your doorstep or breaks into your car - 4 out of 5 times they will get away. Don’t tell the 5,500,000 victims of unsolved property crime about declining crime rates. It doesn’t help retrieve those stolen vehicles.
Many people install doorbell cameras as a potential solution to the property crime problem. And as the NBC News article points out, doorbell cameras may let you know if a crime happened. However, if you or the police don’t know the suspect who committed the crime, capturing a clear picture of them at your doorstep may not be enough. According to the article, “you have a video of one unknown person in a city of two-and-a-half million people!” said Lt. Jack Harvey, a lead property crime investigator at the Houston Police Department. You may see that a crime occurred, but you may not have the type of evidence police need to solve it.
Let’s do an exercise in statistics
70% of property crimes involve the use of a vehicle. If there is a crime in your community and you capture the license plate of the suspect vehicle, you can share that information with police and they can at a minimum run the tag and follow the lead. A license plate gives police a first step in investigating crime.
A more complete body of evidence makes it more likely we can help police solve the crime.
And automatic license plate readers work. We have seen countless stories of local law enforcement using this essential technology to track leads and solve crime. In fact, when communities pair a doorbell camera with a license plate reader, we've seen a serial porch pirate brought to justice.
How do you find the best system for you?
Do the research. See which technologies best fit your community’s needs. A good place to start is to identify what your goals are. Do you want to capture evidence so police can track leads and solve crime? Do you want to deter would-be thieves from entering your community? Do you simply want peace of mind?
After you understand your community’s goals, assess both your technological acumen and your “handiness” acumen. You can DIY a system that you build, install, and monitor all on your own. It’ll take time, energy, and a potentially steep learning curve. You can also buy and install the equipment, but then let someone else monitor it. You can have it all installed for you, and then you monitor. There are variations for every different type of community. At Flock Safety, we install, maintain, and take care of all the hardware and software for you. You own the footage and decide who has access to it. You can share it with police with just two taps on your phone.
No single technology is a perfect solution in all situations and there are exceptions to every rule. But if your goal is to eliminate crime in your community, talk to the experts. Reach out to your local law enforcement for advice. Ask them what evidence they would need in the event of a crime. Stories like these are what have grown the Flock Safety network to include 700+ cities across the nation. Put yourself in the best position to capture the best evidence for police to track leads and solve crime.