Drunk Brother-in-Law/Nephew Duo Strike
February 6, 2006 11:28 AM   Subscribe

Need spy cams to catch vandals. I know it was asked before, I have other questions

I know this was covered before but I don't have a PC. I have a Mac. So, most of the things mentioned, like webcamXP, won't work with my system.

About six months ago, my lifelong collection of wine was ruined by someone who broke the lock on my wine cabinet and left the doors open (it was stored in a small building on our property, hidden and hard to get to.) The wine cabinet was broken into, but no wine taken. Still, the wine was destroyed since I don't know when it was broken into, or how long the wine was left unrefrigerated, could have been weeks. But that's not all. Just a few days ago, someone broke into another building and peed on the floor. Despite there being a bathroom in it. And, weeks before that all my potted plants on the front porch were swiped one weekend while we were away. Almost every other week some very small, weird thing is taken, broken or vandalized. I have reason to believe this is being done by my nephew (by marriage) and his alcoholic father. They were living in our back house when the cops showed up with a warrant for the nephew who had caused an accident and then ran (his third car accident in three weeks). I kicked them out. They were very pissed. Since then, the vandalism started. Petty, consistent, no eyewitnesses.

The previous post didn't cover stuff that would work on a Mac. Also, I am not tech savvy. Like, someone mentioned a "CCD" in the previous post, I have no idea what that means. I do need wireless that is activated by motion detection and can see in the night. I'll need about 3 cameras and they need to work with my powerbook G4. What can you recommend?
posted by generic230 to Computers & Internet (23 answers total)
posted by BrandonAbell at 11:47 AM on February 6, 2006

Response by poster: I never thought about a budget, but $1000 would be the most I could spend. Is that reasonable?
posted by generic230 at 11:51 AM on February 6, 2006

Not sure why you need the cameras to work with a computer. The usual thing is to record the camera output on videotape. If the cameras were on motion detectors, and seperated, you'd probably only need one recorder.

CCD is short for charged-couple device. Swell, huh? It's a type of light-detecting electronics.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:53 AM on February 6, 2006

Response by poster: Kirth, yeah. Very swell. I don't know that I need it to run on my computer, just it seemed easier than buying a recorder. I need whatever's easiest. I want wireless because cables are too much trouble. I was assuming, with my computer, it would be like having a webcam, and I could record it on my hard drive. Having said that as if I know what I'm talking about, II don't.
posted by generic230 at 11:59 AM on February 6, 2006

I have no personal experience with this, but Smarthome sells a DVR, which is basically records video to a hard disk. They claim this thing can record video for up to 3 days. They seem to have all manner of cameras and additional surveillance equipment. You might want to call them and see what they suggest. It looks like you might be able to get what you need for under $1k. I wonder if hiring a security firm for the weekend might be cheaper.
posted by SteveInMaine at 12:05 PM on February 6, 2006

Your most reasonable options are:

  • Individual wireless (802.11b/g) networked cameras set to upload a set of images to an FTP server (running on your computer, or offsite) when they detect motion.

  • A set of wireless video cameras of the type X10 sells.

  • I like the first option because that gives you the most flexibility -- Easier to move around and you can set them (usually) to upload images to an FTP server when they detect motion. PC/Mac becomes irrelevant. The expense starts happening when you get indoor/outdoor ones that can handle bright light, if that's something you want.

    How many cameras do you really think you need though? Does you property have a single entry point that you can monitor? It seems like proving trespassing would be enough, you don't need to prove property damage do you?
    posted by BrandonAbell at 12:06 PM on February 6, 2006

    Hmmm. Those DVRs that SteveInMaine linked to look like a good option as well. But I don't think you'll be able to avoid running at least *some* cable.
    posted by BrandonAbell at 12:08 PM on February 6, 2006

    The problem with the video option (assuming that you don't have some sort of built-in motion detector triggering when to record) is that if you can record three days worth of video, then you have to watch three days worth of video. And unless the vandalism is obvious and you know when to look right away, you might have already recorded over the footage.
    posted by Gamblor at 12:13 PM on February 6, 2006

    FWIW, Costco and BJ's sell surveillance cameras. I've seen skip-motion VCRs that record for six days for about $200. Spend a little more, and you could probably get more features.

    I am not in this field, (and it sounds like none of us are). It may be that you can get a security company to set up a working system for a grand. Worth a couple of phone calls, anyway.
    posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:16 PM on February 6, 2006

    Response by poster: Brandon, I need two cameras One for the front of the house and the porch vandals, and one thirty feet back at the gate to the back of the property.
    posted by generic230 at 12:28 PM on February 6, 2006

    I maintain a security camera system in a series of computer labs where I work. They are the type I believe you are looking for: networked, save images every 30 seconds to a server, run their own webserver to view images live, etc...

    I don't think this is what you are looking for. The initial cost for a good quality setup would be well past 1000 dollars (at least using Axis network cams, which is what we use.) What will you do with the camera once you catch him and manage to keep him off your property? Kirth has the right idea, I think. Get a cheap wired setup that you don't mind letting sit around when you are done. You only need to catch the guy, hopefully, once.
    posted by Loto at 12:30 PM on February 6, 2006

    Panasonic and Axis have wireless networked digital surveilance cameras with motion detection that can store a series of frames both before and after the motion was detected. I know the higher end panasonic model can record to an SD card, as well as automatically uploading video to an FTP server. Prices aren't cheap though. I think $500 at a minimum, maybe $750.
    posted by Good Brain at 12:32 PM on February 6, 2006

    I lied, here is an indoor (you'd need to build a housing if you wanted it outside) Axis Wireless Network cam for about 300 bucks.

    posted by Loto at 12:38 PM on February 6, 2006

    Unless your yard is lit like a used car lot skip the x10 cameras, low light performance is very poor.
    posted by Mitheral at 1:20 PM on February 6, 2006

    One thing to note is that even if you have cameras, and even if you catch the vandals on video, you probably aren't going to be able to do much with the video. In many jurisdictions, the continuity-of-evidence rules pretty much prevent "privately collected" evidence in criminal prosecutions.

    Personally, I think the money for cameras could be better spent on good locks, better lighting, and so on.
    posted by gwenzel at 1:25 PM on February 6, 2006

    toshiba also makes some high end cameras such as good brain mentions above. they were on sale at frys recently for $399 which is essentially 1/2 off.

    there is a program called evoCam for the mac which can take any webcam and do the motion sensor recording thing. i checked it out but eventually settled on the toshiba cameras.

    warning though, the toshiba camera is very complex and somewhat buggy and i wouldnt reccomend them except to advanced users. i had to write my own perl scripts to handle the ftp'd data coming off the computer, for instance, and i had to write my own HTML to view the live image from the camera since their stuff is bloated with javascript and java...
    posted by joeblough at 2:36 PM on February 6, 2006

    Even if you can't use the video to prosecute, you should be able to use it to get a restraining order - ordering them to stay off your property. Then, next time they show up, you might be able to get them for violating the injuction/restraining order.
    posted by thewittyname at 2:38 PM on February 6, 2006

    Nightvision cams from the flying squirrels in the attic thread. A cheapie alarm system might also be in order.
    posted by caddis at 2:47 PM on February 6, 2006

    The prior thread(s) have mentioned EvoCam, but this one hasn't yet. But it should, it does exactly what you want.
    posted by ikkyu2 at 5:27 PM on February 6, 2006

    Er, that is, EvoCam. My HTML-fu is weak today.
    posted by ikkyu2 at 5:28 PM on February 6, 2006

    Response by poster: Thank you everyone. Gwenzel, just so you know, we have spent money on better locks and lights and security. Somehow they keep getting in. That's why we need cameras. It's driving us crazy. I have to read and cogitate on all these great ideas you guys have provided me with. Thanks so much.
    posted by generic230 at 10:14 PM on February 6, 2006

    thanks for the link ikkyu2, i was too lazy to google it and post it in my comment.
    posted by joeblough at 1:06 AM on February 7, 2006

    As for the chain-of-custody problem, keep a log and list anyone and everyone who touched it whenever. Even have the police sign for the videos. Not only that but usally the police will see the evidence, pull one of them in and the other will turn. Its enough for probable cause. Make sure you let them know of the high dollar value of the losses, too, otherwise they might not put your crime on the front burner.
    posted by Ironmouth at 11:05 AM on February 7, 2006

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