Doorbell video cameras are becoming increasingly popular in neighborhoods across the country. Not only are they reasonably priced, but they are easy to install and operate, giving individuals and families additional surveillance for their homes. These cameras have their drawbacks, however. Their low-quality video recordings can prove problematic should attempts be made to forensically enhance footage. Let’s take a closer look at how doorbell video cameras are being used as evidentiary support and the advantages and disadvantages you should be aware of before purchasing these security measures for your home.
Doorbell Video Cameras as Evidence
According to Government Technology Magazine, the Los Angeles Police Department reported that doorbell video cameras had reduced neighborhood burglaries in 2015 by as much as 55 percent in seven months (Shedlock, 2019)[i].
In 2019, our lab saw a significant increase in the number of cases utilizing evidence via doorbell video cameras. We are currently working on a case with crucial video evidence from a doorbell video camera that captured a murder suspect. Although we can see the perpetrator from the neighbor’s doorbell video camera, we are unable to make an identification.
Pros of Doorbell Video Cameras
As previously mentioned, doorbell video cameras are both affordable and easy to install. They can be connected through wifi and accessed from your mobile device anywhere, anytime. These cameras help identify the knock at your door and deter “porch pirates” from stealing packages.
Doorbell cameras not only record video, but they can record audio as well. And based on our experience, there has been greater success in forensically enhanced audio rather than video. We currently have an active case that was originally ruled as a suicide but is now under investigation as a murder. Forensically enhanced audio revealed additional information and the investigation has been re-opened with a new case strategy.
Several manufacturers have recently released 4K resolution technology in doorbell video cameras. Although our lab has not worked with 4K resolution doorbell camera footage yet, we anticipate there will be a dramatic increase in the success rate of forensic video enhancements due to the higher quality of video they will provide.
Cons of Doorbell Video Cameras
One drawback of forensically enhancing doorbell video cameras is the amount of compression that occurs as a result of the operational structure. The video portion of these recordings can become highly compressed for a number of reasons. These include low-strength wifi connection, the use of cloud storage, and the limitations of the system settings. Compression reduces the quality of the video, especially at a distance, making it difficult to clearly see the events as they occurred.
Although it is convenient to connect these systems to your home wifi, it makes the video vulnerable to hackers that try to learn your day-to-day behavior.
According to CNet, researchers have found that doorbell cameras had vulnerability leaking wifi login information and could give hackers access to your account allowing them to stream and send messages to the user in an attempt to deceive.
“It had been sending this sensitive information over an unencrypted network, which meant that anyone viewing that network could have seen your username and password for your Wi-Fi. The potential hacker would have to be within a range of your Wi-Fi to carry out this attack.” [ii]
Single vs Multi Vantage Point
When using doorbell cameras, there is only one camera view with one vantage point, limiting their effectiveness. CCTV systems, on the other hand, have multiple camera views with more than one vantage point. This means that more areas are covered in the video recordings which presents more options for forensic enhancement to the forensic video technician.
CCTV systems have multiple cameras installed that are typically out of reach, making it difficult for anyone to steal or damage them. Doorbell cameras, however, are mounted in closer ranges that are easy to access and susceptible to damage or theft.
Before You Buy
There are many makes and manufacturers of doorbell video cameras. Our research has pointed us to PC Magazine, which featured the article The Best Video Doorbells for 2019 [iii]. We recommend doing some research before purchasing a doorbell camera and consider home surveillance (CCTV system) as an option.
Browse our website for more information on forensic video enhancement and contact us with any questions.