Home security cameras become crime-fighting tools

TAMPA (WFLA) – They could be better than a snarling dog.  Home security cameras are credited for catching criminals in the act, and sending them to jail.

And you might be surprised to learn that you can set one up without breaking the bank.

Who can forget the chilling moment in June, caught on home security video, when a man  broke into a St. Petersburg home, waited for the woman who lives here to return, then terrorized her.

The video went viral, and helped law enforcement catch Clyde Mathis, a career criminal with a long rap sheet.

MORE: Victim speaks after suspect arrested in terrifying burglary caught on video

“I think that it would have been very hard for me to explain what happened that evening” said Kristin Barber, the victim of the June attack.

For the first time since that frightening night, Barber didn’t request to disguise her identity.

She told police, her cat was missing, and remembered an important detail.

“I have a canary. I have a canary, and they’re like OK dear. You have a canary and you have a cat.  Good job.  And I’m like, ‘No, no, it records things! It’s a video. It will show, hold on, let me get it,’” said Barber.

“Canary” is the system that Barber uses in her house right now. There are several other video security systems on the market  for less than $200.

Another popular one is the Nestcam  and the Ring.

Security cameras caught Lupen Font, who police contend is a prolific burglar who may be responsible for dozens of break-ins.

At a home in St. Petersburg, police said he stole stuff as the owners evacuated for hurricane Irma.

“Very affordable.  It doesn’t cost you that much to go out and get a decent camera,” said St. Petersburg Detective Ja’terio Jones.

Home security video is changing the way detectives do their job. Sometimes they stop a crime before they happen.

“When they see the cameras, the majority of the people, when they get ready to commit a crime, they look up, they look around. When they see it, they keep going,” said Jones.

And if they don’t keep going, cops have great evidence to present in court.

“We can see the person come inside the residents, and its night vision, and the residence is dark, and they walk right past the camera, didn’t even see it.  We’re able to identify who that person was” said Detective Jones.

Video systems are easy to install. “It’s really becoming affordable.  And a lot of these solutions are truly, do it yourself,” said Tom Gray with Best Buy.

Cameras detect motion, or talking and alert you on your smart phone. You can start small, and add more cameras later. “Most of these are all high definition.  And you’d also be very surprised at the night vision that these particular cameras have,” said Gray.

He predicts home security cameras are going to be a hot item this holiday season.

For police, video can be the evidence they need to lock up a criminal.

It happened in Kristin Barber’s case. “We’re very happy that she did have the cameras in there so we can get this guy identified,” said Jones.

Kristin Barber has a message for St. Petersburg detectives.

“I cannot thank them enough. They were wonderful,” she said.

As you look at security cameras, be sure to budget the cost of recording what your cameras capture. That can add up, depending on how many cameras you have.

They start at $30 per year and go up to several hundred.

Since the story about Barber’s attack, many have told her they are getting a home security camera.  She has moved away from the house where this happened and is in the process of starting her own business consulting service.

Here are 8 home security systems available now, and what they cost:

Homeowners should shop for the system that fits their needs: Outdoors, indoors, wide-angle lens, regular lens, night video, cloud recording, local recording.

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