Use of doorbell cameras on the rIse

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published December 21, 2016

METRO DETROIT — Criminals better watch out: Santa may not be the only one watching them this holiday season.

With the technology for cameras and wireless links becoming more common and affordable, the use of cameras on front doors, also known as doorbell cameras, has been steadily rising in recent years. These cameras can be of varying sizes and costs, but they are installed facing out from the front door of a home and can record or send a video stream or still photo when they detect motion near the door.

This allows homeowners to see who is at their door without having to open it, and some units even can send an alert to the homeowner’s smartphone with a photo of the front porch when it detects someone there.

“Some people are buying them for security; others are buying them for surveillance,” said Jeremy Troke, manager of the Menards store in Warren. “There’s a growing variety of security options, with everything from an audible alarm on windows to wireless cameras with night vision, which you can link to a smartphone.”

Many of the doorbell cameras come with an intercom system so the homeowner can speak with whoever is outside while looking at who is on the porch — even if the homeowner is nowhere near their home at the time. In fact, with the growth of smart technology, combined systems with several different pieces of equipment are becoming more and more common.

“Our business doesn’t even sell doorbell cameras on their own, but as part of a smart home package,” said Dan Paulson, co-owner of Paulson’s Audio in Farmington Hills. “This makes a home more secure, as equipment like doorbell cameras are tied in with a processor, an intercom and other integrated components. We sell a lot of these systems, and a lot of them can automatically send a photo of who’s at the door to a phone or put an image on your TV.”

Individual cameras start in price at about $70 and can increase to hundreds of dollars depending on the complexity of the equipment. A full smart home system will start at approximately $600 and increase from there.

Besides home security, there are other uses for such technology. It can help assist those who need help living alone or let family members know that one another is safe.

“Cameras have been particularly useful for seniors with mobility issues,” said Paulson. “Getting to control aspects of your home at the push of a button is so useful for those who have trouble getting around or those who need regular help in their day-to-day lives. We’ve had a lot of people giving systems like this as gifts this year. We just had a customer who set up one of these systems at his father’s house so he could check on his dad or make sure the house was safe.”

Police departments have noted the rise of doorbell cameras. The prevalence of cameras has helped a number of departments solve cases all around the country.

“From what I’ve been told, they can be great tools. I’ve never seen a downside besides cost,” said John Vorgitch, the deputy chief of Harper Woods’ Department of Public Safety. “We’ve used them in prosecutions in the last year. They can help to catch suspects involved in breaking-and-entering cases, assaults, and thieves stealing items off of porches.”

The use of doorbell cameras and similar equipment can lend a helpful hand to detectives investigating cases — even if the home with the camera wasn’t the site of a crime.

“I would definitely recommend them,” said Vorgitch. “If we have a crime in a neighborhood, cameras like this even can help us catch crimes in action from across the street or in the road. Having a clear photo of a suspect that we can use or send to the media can be instrumental in solving cases.”