Thieves Use Video Camera to Stake Out Properties

If the police can use cameras, so can the burglars.

Posted on April 11, 2013 at 6:42 AM • 30 Comments

Comments

SomeoneApril 11, 2013 7:54 AM

Bruce,

Normally I with you on your presumptions and implications, but this post strikes me as disingenuous of you.

The complaints you often bring up with police surveillance center around what they are legally allowed to do. Complaints you've made that link what police can do to what a criminal can do have been related to legally-mandated backdoors.

What happened in this instance that warrants comparison between the burglar's use of a camera and law enforcement's potential use of a camera?

TolomeaApril 11, 2013 8:01 AM

We should ban video cameras, so the thieves can't use them, think of the children.

joeApril 11, 2013 8:08 AM

The police are holding the suspect on a basically b.s. charge for now (theyll get him on burglary eventually). The charge of illegally recording people in public is eventually going to get tossed out since there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in public (assuming the recordings were made outdoors)

CharlieApril 11, 2013 8:29 AM

If the camera had WiFi, he would have known they were on to him.

If he hadn't had evidence in his car and home, perhaps he could have talked his way out of it. Especially if he had had a good reason for being there, like walking his dog.

If he had stored his stolen jewelry someplace untraceable, like buried in the woods, what evidence would the police have had?

If he had merely used a long-range camera attached to a telescope, and software to handle the motion-detection, would anyone have noticed?

And if he could do all this, couldn't he have made more money legally?

GossApril 11, 2013 8:36 AM

I am surprised more burglars have not done this, it is common sense to stake out a place beforehand and the technology is cheap and easy to get. (Check out China's "Light in the Box", for instance.)

Probably, they do. It is absurd these days to ever force your self to be on premise or near premise to stake out a place.

It would be interesting to see more prepackaged systems designed for this sort of covert monitoring.

There would be tradeoffs on video quality, infrared capabilities, storage capabilities, and then possibility of second stage information delivery. There are a wide number of potential designs there.

Looks like his simple system with very poor quality sufficed for at least basic stake out options. Seeing who gets in, when they get in, how they get in.

DeafApril 11, 2013 9:13 AM

> it's illegal to record audio and video of two parties...

So, if the camera had recorded only video, there would be no crime for the recording device?

Clive RobinsonApril 11, 2013 9:55 AM

@ Someone,

... but this post strikes me as disingenuous of you

Err I think Bruce was making a simple statment of fact, not making commentry on the legality or morals of what has been done.

@ Deaf,

So, if the camera had recorded only video, there would be no crime for the recording device?

Go have a look at US "wiretap" legislation, it goes back way before personal use video cameras.

The same is far from true in other jurisdictions. For instance in the UK you are supposed to get (quite expensive) planning permission before you put up a camera on your property or in it's suronding grounds.

And it just so happens that one rule is effectivly considered by Local Authorities as "no two cameras within 10meters of each other" means that whilst big houses owned by (supposed) elites can put them up and have them "cross covering" for effective security... People living in normal 1000ft^2 three bed semi-detached or terraced properties are quite constrained and in general cannot have one camera covering another.

Thus a potential burglar etc just has to find the end of the line and put individual cameras out of action...

PeterApril 11, 2013 12:36 PM

Ahh, this brings back memories of that scene in Sneakers where they scope out Playtronics HQ.

Surprised it took this long to become a trend.

ThunderbirdApril 11, 2013 1:20 PM

Normally I with you on your presumptions and implications, but this post strikes me as disingenuous of you.
I thought it was interesting and presented in a neutral fashion. I'm not sure I could've written a more neutral teaser than the one that introduced the link.

I wonder if the camera was just a game camera ("game" as in "wild game," that is) that had been removed from its case, or if he built something himself?

GossApril 11, 2013 2:49 PM

@Thunderbird

It does look like he just took one of those systems and modified it.

That would also explain the blurry pictures, those are not designed for the wide and far scope he was using it for.

SomeoneApril 11, 2013 7:44 PM

@Thunderbird

One is hard put to come off as neutral when comparing law enforcement to criminals. I'm all for fighting back against what will inevitably be abused - bad laws, overly permissive policies, or poor oversight. But I see no point in Bruce making the connection he made in his post. I mean, I could understand if he was trying to make people a bit more paranoid about what the police *could* do, but there is nothing special about the the title of "police" and the act of using a camera in the manner the article described.

Guillaume BaileyApril 11, 2013 8:14 PM

I think Bruce's point is simply that any technology that can make the police more effective can also make criminals more effective.

TonyApril 11, 2013 8:39 PM

"I think Bruce's point is simply that any technology that can make the police more effective can also make criminals more effective."

Often they are one and the same.

SomeoneApril 11, 2013 10:40 PM

@Guillaume Bailey

He's made that point in the past. That is not a point he is making a good justification for here. The article he posted a link to showed police operating in the capacity they're supposed to.

DariusApril 12, 2013 12:09 AM

I guess to generalize Bruce's statement:
Technology can be used by good or evil.

I guess the only justification are your intention, and whether it was 'profitable' to do so.

GossApril 12, 2013 2:55 AM

@someone

There is a lot of evidence that nations are abusing surveillance powers for unlawful purposes. They are entrusted in positions of power and authority to uphold those standards, those laws, and when they break them and flaunt breaking them then they lose their authority.

It then becomes a case of simply a more powerful hypocrite overpowering a less powerful hypocrite. Basically, the mafia, not a government.

They have their power still, but their authority is dissipated. As they say, "they have no right to judge".

If a government completely loses its' authority, it still has power, but the whole system is then lawless. It is then just a matter of time before they are themselves overpowered.

I do not yet see that the evidence is conclusive that the US Government is flagrantly breaking the law with surveillance powers. It may be the case, but I am only privy to what comes on the news.

There is a lot of appearance of impropriety, however. Shocking new evidence comes out almost every week.

These abuses have destabilized the country already.

As far as I know, it is more a case that officers are still operating in good faith. However, much of this is cloaked from the general public under auspices of "National Security".

If it turns out that there is truly endemic corruption in the US Government, then the system will collapse.

There has been exposed endemic corruption in the past: at the federal, state, and local levels. But, is this still the case? Are people continuing the legacy of the corrupt cops and feds of the pre-70s US?

FionaApril 12, 2013 8:56 AM

@Someone:
"One is hard put to come off as neutral when comparing law enforcement to criminals."

Is that what he's doing? As I think others here have said, it's far more about the inevitability of a kind of arms-race between any two adversarial parties.

SomeoneApril 12, 2013 11:30 AM

@Goss

Surveillance powers? In the case Bruce brought up in the article he linked, IT'S JUST A MODIFIED CAMERA WITH NO WIFI CAPABILITIES. This isn't the kind of "surveillance power" that we need to worry about!


@Fiona
An arms race doesn't make sense in this context. If it was police directly fighting against the criminals or vice versa, then an arms race would make sense. But it's not - it's the criminal monitoring the civilian victim and the police physically staking the victim out! This is as low tech as it comes and is, in fact, exactly the kind of police work Bruce has said is perfectly fine in the past!

GossApril 12, 2013 1:03 PM

@someone

Surveillance powers? In the case Bruce brought up in the article he linked, IT'S JUST A MODIFIED CAMERA WITH NO WIFI CAPABILITIES. This isn't the kind of "surveillance power" that we need to worry about!

I think you misunderstood what I was saying. I was talking about the US Government setting a bad example by breaking laws. There is a principle that when laws are not enforced or flagrantly broken, it sets precedence for the population.

It is like if your mom smokes pot and catches you smoking pot. She is in no place to judge. In fact, if your mom smokes pot, why not?

Right now, there is a lot of waves being made saying that the US Government is unlawfully surveilling citizens. That may be encouraging criminals, even though, at this time, there is not conclusive evidence of this behavior. It is locked down in the courts and with corporations under the banner of "national security".

I do not think this kid thief has done anything shocking at all. I do think he may have been encouraged to use this technology because of flagrant disregard for privacy shown by some corporations and government.

SomeoneApril 12, 2013 3:37 PM

@Goss

You're making quite a few assumptions there. I understand what you're getting at, but still. The article Bruce linked to in this journal does not back those assumptions.

AndrewApril 13, 2013 1:00 AM

The description Bruce posted isn't judgmental or making a statement about either parties, except that technology is available to both

It's the same as saying that blackhats can get hold of the same tools as whitehats, which might be more easy for traditional viewers of this blog to relate to. Of course, as others point out, the morality of whitehats or immorality of blackhats can be called into question when they share immoral methods, but that is neither a point raised in the words Bruce posted nor does it really pertain to this crime.

Back on topic: what are we seeing in picture 6/8 on the article?
http://media.wfaa.com/images/600*338/...

Gregory KeyApril 14, 2013 11:45 AM

Wiretapping laws are not in context for this case. The is NO expectation of privacy in public. Sans, military bases with well posted no photography/top secret signs in place. The other exception is nuclear power facilities. Otherwise for personal reasons it is a 1st amendment right to photograph anyone for anything outside of expectation to privacy. Children, bridges, airports including TSA security, police, President, etc, etc Unless this person was peeping in the window of a bathroom/house he is not committing a crime. NOW what people should be concerned about is being followed to a store, having your car incapacited, while the thief steals your garage door opener, and gps system with registration. The 2-3 hours it takes to get back on the road, perps will be gone with you helping them inadvertently to back track to your home and unlocked kitchen doors!

mooApril 14, 2013 4:16 PM

@Gregory Key:
In the U.S., wiretapping laws have nothing to do with photography. They cover recording (audio) of conversations between people.

The linked case took place in Texas, which is a one-party-consent state:
http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/...

I presume the perp was charged with unlawful interception because his hidden camera had recorded at least one conversation between two people without the knowledge of either of those people. Even if they don't manage to nail him on a bunch of burglary charges (and it sounds like they will easily be able to do that) the unlawful interception charge is probably an open-and-shut case.

mooApril 14, 2013 4:20 PM

@joe:
Are you sure its a B.S. charge? From reading the article it sounded like his hidden camera was recording people on someone else's private property, not public property. Its true that the article doesn't actually state that he recorded audio though. I assume they have some evidence of him doing that, since he was charged with unlawful interception ("Interception and disclosure of wire, oral, or electronic communications"):
http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2511

nonegivenApril 14, 2013 6:16 PM

A local company is advertising game cameras that can be monitored over the cellular network.

SpeculatingApril 15, 2013 1:22 PM

@Andrew

I'm wondering if it is some sort of power supply for the camera, or the transmitter unit.

The batteries could be stored in the white plastic enclosure, and that metal rod is either a telescoping antenna, or possibly a "stake" for mounting the unit to the ground.

KevinMay 8, 2013 3:47 PM

I think Bruce was alluding to the irony of the ever-increasing use of CCTV monitoring by the authorities of the civilian population for the supposed reason of decreasing crime juxtaposed with this story of a criminal using similar technology to monitor victims with the aim of increasing crime! I hardly think there's any need to cast any aspersions on Bruce for what is barely even a one-line introduction.

With that said, I would imagine that the kind of activity that the criminal was engaging could well be described as a kind of "loitering with intent", using the camera as a proxy for his physical presence.

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