Doorbell-type cameras may be easy to install and operate but they have their drawbacks. They are reasonably priced and readily available, but they provide lower quality video recordings which are problematic when attempting to forensically enhance a crime or casualty in a distance. We believe any video is better than no video. We believe any video is better than no video. However, poor video quality reduces the chance of a successful forensic enhancement.”
Types of doorbell video used as video evidence
According to Government Technology Magazine, the Los Angeles Police Department found that in 2015 that doorbell cameras had reduced burglaries in neighborhoods by as much as 55 percent in seven months (Shedlock, 2019)[i].
In 2019, our lab saw an increase in the number of cases that had recorded video evidence that was created on doorbell cameras. We currently have an active case with crucial video evidence from a doorbell camera that captured the movement of a murder suspect. Although we can see the perpetrator from the neighbor’s doorbell camera, we are unable to make an identification.
Doorbell cameras are affordable and easy to install. They can be connected through wifi and accessed right from your smartphone or tablet to see live stream video anywhere, anytime. These cameras are good for knowing who is responsible for the knock at your door and to deter “porch pirates” from stealing packages.
Doorbell-type cameras not only record video, but can record audio too, and based on our experience, there has been more successful in forensically enhancing the audio portion rather than the video portion of the recording. We currently have an active case in the house that originally was ruled as a suicide, but is now being investigated as a murder. Due to forensically enhanced audio that revealed additional information about the events that occurred, the investigation has been re-opened and has resulted in a new case strategy.
Several manufacturers have recently released 4K Resolution technology in doorbell 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 because of the higher quality video they will provide.
One drawback of forensically enhancing doorbell cameras is the amount of compression that occurs as a result of the operational structure. It’s unfortunate, but 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 a doorbell camera, 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 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.
Look throughout the rest of our website for more information on forensic video enhancement and to contact us.