A while back I decided to fit an IP surveillance camera to the rear of my house to keep an eye on my motorbike and shed. Over the years it has caught very few things of any importance. I was able to call a company to get them to collect a metal grate that was left in my parking space by their workmen after reading the company name on the back of the truck. It also seems to have prevented the flytipping that was unfortunately all too common on our road when we first moved in. This weekend though it proved more useful than even I thought was possible!
With remote access and online storage I’m able to check that our cars and bike are still there when on holiday and also look back over the last few days if something of interest has happened. For this I use a service called Mangocam. I originally had the camera wireless attached to a Raspberry Pi which recorded incidents when motion was detected. Unfortunately the model B pi that I had wasn’t quite powerful enough for the job (the newer, more powerful version, can be bought here and should work well) and I scrapped the idea in favour of an online service. Setup on Mangocam was simple and the piece of mind is worth the small subscription cost.
The picture quality is reasonable at 640×480 and this resolution matches up with what most online camera services offer. Night capability is impressive as the full area is illuminated by 24 IR LEDs that surround the camera lens and the camera switches between the two modes automatically when light levels drop. Beware, the IR LEDs seem to attract spiders like moths to a flame and cobwebbing is required approximately once a quarter. The FI8904W is waterproof and has stood up well to the environment in all seasons. I have never had to power cycle it and the connection seems to be very stable, even over wifi.
So why am I writing about this now? I can’t go into details, as the investigation is ongoing, but over the weekend a neighbour was chased into his house and assaulted by a group of men. The CCTV caught the suspects following him in and then running away approximately 5 minutes later. Whilst the footage quality is fairly grainy (recorded around 12am and so the camera was in night mode) it will hopefully provide the police with enough evidence to pursue those responsible and at least help open up lines of enquiry. Identifying suspects from the video may not be possible but what it can show is how many people were involved and what type of clothes they were wearing. It also shows the direction they ran off in and that one of them appeared to drop something in a bin by the side of the road before running off.
Not everyone wants to mount a CCTV camera on the outside of their house, the monetary expense of buying one or to spend the time setting it up. However, for this one lone incident where I have been able to assist the police and hopefully make our neighbourhood safer; I think it was worth every penny. Criminals aren’t easily put off by alarms or locks but they hate having their photo taken. The Foscam FI8904 does that wonderfully during the day and the slight glow from the infrared LEDs at night should be enough to persuade all but the most ardent of them to try their luck somewhere else.