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Keeping Safe, VERY Safe Over the Holiday
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Click for the complete story.

Check out the news piece that Spectrum TV News put together about my, maybe unhealthy, obsession with security cameras. Sure, I've gone a little over the top but I really do enjoy the opportunity to push a strategy of frustrating criminals with off the shelf technology like cameras.

The spot is focused on ways to keep your property and cars safe in general, and in particular over the July 4 holiday, but gravitates toward my use, and apparent effectiveness, of using security cameras here, there, and, just about everywhere.

I'm particularly happy that the spot mentioned my Crime Footage Index web project.

The project is not well developed and is meant, for now, to be nothing more than a demonstration to police jurisdictions about web services they could run that give people an 'official' depot to submit the footage they gather. The idea is that it would give police a crowd-sourced investigative tool that would not require the taxation of a police report or any expectation of immediate action. Factors I believe exist that prevent them from making such a channel available now.

In Creepers Versus Cameras, Creeps Win
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Care-free creeper checks the car doors.

After our burglary last year I went a little nuts on the house camera system. After awhile it became clear that the building out of such an extensive surveillance system was probably done more as a hobby and frankly (and pathetically) no small degree of ego gratification since footage tends to equal great share content. It's hard to tell where my genuine appreciation for frustrating bad guys ends and my deplorable need for online attention begins though I imagine it's a pretty fuzzy one.

Burglar loots my room in May 2018. The recounting.

Creeper footage is not just great Facebook fodder though -- the potential of technology, and in particular off the shelf consumer technology, to combat crime problems once considered 'just the way things are' is a personal genuine fascination. 'Combating crime' is of course done on a number of different fronts starting most fundamentally with making sure civilizations have a robust and just social fabric that encourages empathy between humans, provides reasonable safety nets, authentically educates, and that they exhibit compassion throughout all of their institutions. This array is followed quickly by prevention techniques and then in some short order, effective control, penal, and rehabilitative measures.

We will have achieved utopia when the only crime left is that which is motivated by pure impulse or some degree of mental illness. And we will of course never reach utopia. The limitations of our human brains leaves this reality window open as an effective fact of life to criminals horrific and more benign, like creepers.

Creepers as I deem them are people who are grounded down so far in life that they take to preying on the unguarded by slinking about probing unlocked cars, garages, and yard gates for loose treasure or any measure of sustenance. My over-investment in cameras catch these people in action and it's incredible to see how far they will go and the risks that they take - to the extent that they consider what they do 'risky'. It seems that as home camera systems have begun to proliferat these folks have become somewhat ambivalent.

There seems to be good reason. Based on my own experience in all this, as well as on the postings of creeper videos by others in social media or within proprietary camera network (such as Ring's Neighbors app), some things have become apparent.

Ring is a mission-driven company with an app.

First, it's amazing to me how having a real-time eye on places using all this great technology rarely translates into an intercept or in-time capture of various perpetrators (like this rare exception which is awesome). I am not sure I have a good understanding of why just yet but it seems to boil down the simple fact that while our cameras can be 24/7, our attention kept in sync with them, cannot be. The burglar in my apartment last year rummaged almost 20 minutes in clear view of my camera and was not challenged the least by it, tangibly or even psychologically. As I toiled away at work, my camera app tried to notify me, repeatedly, but I didn't notice.

Other people consistently and almost exclusively post video in social media of porch pirate and other illicit activity, but it's always video after the fact by hours or even days.

So bad guys are learning that no matter what they do in front of the camera's eye, the chances of a homeowner bounding out with a shotgun are probably nil. The same goes for anyone part of a social media group. Hundreds of people can be notified but the chances of certain confrontation are still low enough to mute the creeper's concern.

In fact, this Allstate Mayhem ad pretty much exemplifies the futility of notification.

Even watching live is not enough sometimes.

It's one thing to not always be ready for intercept; most of us are not poised to attack criminals all day long after all. People kind of 'get' that camera systems exist just as much, if not more in reason, to document evidence of a crime, not trigger an instant armed response. But even on this point the cameras are not particularly aggravating to swines.

At least for the 'creeper' ilk, where clear criminal intent exists but no (serious) criminal event actually winds up taking place, it seems that law enforcement attention is practically non-existent. Again in my personal experience, but also by an observed lack of engagement by police or others in the online forums where these things get posted. One may have the idea that police would take a keen interest in any video showing someone prowling about and that they would breathlessly integrate those postings into their daily patrol efforts. But if they are they aren't telling.

So, bad guys in this era of the constant eye are learning that even as an erection of some giant red flag about their existence, it's a flag that will be ignored. All this means that at the end of the day we have non-confrontation and lack of follow up in their favor. Cameras be damned.

I am of course guilty of daring to muse about all of this with no clear solution to propose. Creepers are a dime a dozen, rarely impact anything seriously aside from an intangible sense of safety perhaps, and police and for that matter the time in the lives of ordinary people, are too strapped to take every creep action as seriously as this blog post sort of asserts.

Even so, I still find it incredible that as a society we now have the means to build a literal video database of inclined behavior, yet we seem uninterested in doing anything with it other than gaff over the audacity of certain people's behavior in social media.

Someone Murdered in Our Neighborhood
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Crime scene at Vernon Place and Fairfield in
Buffalo - Click for Periscope Video.

Update 12/24/18 12:30 PM

It's finally mainstream media news.

What a Christmas Sunday. Last night two Buffalo Police Department SUVs roared up Amherst Street on the left of our house with lights and sirens. I went to the police scanner but didn't tune in in time to hear what it was all about. Normally I'd be glued to the receiver waiting for something to tell me what was so dramatic but as it was we were decorating the tree and doing other festive stuff so I couldn't linger.

Some time later, maybe an hour or so, I notice a Facebook ping to a neighborhood group that I belong to. Someone was reporting that police and an ambulance were convening on Vernon Place, just up the street and around the corner. The same posters began to detail a grim series of details that culminated in the report of a murder. According to the poster, a man had just killed his mother.

There wasn't -- and at this time even, a full 10+ hours later, still isn't -- any confirmation of that. But the reported details were telling and one of the posters happened to be extremely well sourced. Unless five neighbors decided to get together and paint the picture of a non-existent murder for benefit of hoax, which of course is highly unlikely, someone did in fact get killed.

The hesitation in the media could be due to the timing around the Christmas holidays, although, since then, at least one other murder in South Buffalo has made the news...one that occurred many hours after this supposed one. That leads me to wonder if the police still haven't figured out exactly what happened. Maybe someone died but it wasn't a murder?

In any event I was compelled to break the story first as part of my Buffalo Scan initiative. You can see the Periscope broadcast above. In it I avoid giving out virtually any details as I have heard them to be from the Facebook postings because, well, Facebook conjecture. Whatever we eventually learn, no matter how actually a murder it was or not, it is certain something dramatic happened. Police tape is strung up around the entire area, and car traffic was blocked from using the street for over 3 hours.

Even now I will not put out all the information as I know it to be circulating. However I believe I know the names of the victim, the suspect, and the actual house address. And from all this, I understand it to be a tragedy that shouldn't happen ever, let alone over Christmas.

I will update this specific entry when (and if?) there are any updates as to exactly what happened.

From Detection to Capture
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It's rare to get the whole enchilada on video like this. Not only does the Ring camera catch the prowling, someone edited in footage of the police intercept.

You might wonder, what do cops think about all these cameras? Most probably assume that they are excited about them because it helps identify perpetrators of crimes.

I myself, however, have always held the idea that they are actually nervous. Nervous about the influx of incoming calls to address creepers and porch pirates which, unfortunately, abound, and probably far exceed any one police department's surface response capabilities to such activity reported en masse. And, nervous about the plethora of other reasons, all covered fairly well in this Detroit Free Press article (warning: uncomfortable desktop web presentation).

Policing has always coped to some degree by selective attention that aligns with current resources. Cheap consumer cameras disrupt that order by exposing everything. As I know all too personally, people naturally expect that if clear images of bad guys are in hand, that police should be able to zero in on suspects immediately. Should be able to immediately canvas neighborhoods and possibly spot them still exiting communities (as happens to be the case in this video). And yet, the reality of resources is what it is.

My solution has been to create another path for the accumulation and presentation of such footage. Something that does not equal a mandate for police to exert, yet, at the same time, hones in commuity focus on bad actors whether they are criminally charged or not. That "solution" is the Crime Footage Index project which is an open web example of what many feel might just be another venue along with social media channels to show off footage from home "Ring-like" camera systems (I myself use Arlo).

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